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GOP campaign to shine spotlight on Kansas

By Bill Felber

Riley County and Kansas Republicans will enjoy a brief moment in the presidential nominating spotlight Saturday as the party caucuses to select delegates to the national convention.

The Riley County voting will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Susan B. Anthony Middle School, with doors remaining open until 1 p.m. Starting around 9 a.m., representatives of each candidate will be permitted to make short (up to 10 minute) presentations in support of their guys. Barb VanSlyke, chair of the county party, said spokespersons for three of the four have already been identified. They are Holly Friesen, county chair for Kansas For Gingrich; Robert Boyd and James Gardner, speaking for Mitt Romney, and Ian Huyett, who will support Ron Paul. It was not clear at presstime Wednesday who would speak for the fourth candidate, Rick Santorum.

Three of the candidates still in the running for the GOP presidential nomination — all but Romney — have announced plans to be in the state Friday or Saturday, although none are expected to visit the Manhattan area.

The state’s role in the nominating process appeared to have only been enhanced by Romney’s failure to wrap up the nomination during the ‘Super Tuesday’ voting, which saw him win six states while Santorum won three and Gingrich one.

“People still seem to be interested because the race is still volatile,” VanSlyke said, suggesting that turnout may top the approximately 400 persons who took part in the 2008 caucus. She noted that the state party earlier this week mailed out 122,000 fliers statewide encouraging participation.

Only those who were registered as a Republican by Feb. 17 are eligible to take part. Caucusers will be required to provide a photo ID at the caucus location. Unlike at November general election polls, electioneering is encouraged at caucuses, creating what VanSlyke describes as “more of a rally atmosphere.”

Similar caucuses will be held in each of the state’s 105 counties, and the procedures will also be similar.

Of the state’s 40 delegates, 12 are congressional district delegates, and their votes will be split based on the winners of the four congressional districts. Another 25 are at-large candidates, which are split based on the proportion of the candidates who receive 20 percent or more of the vote. The three remaining delegates are the Kansas GOP’s state chairperson, national committeeman and national committeewoman, who vote for the statewide winner.

Gingrich and Santorum are “tentatively scheduled” to visit Wichita on caucus day, while Rep. Ron Paul, is to be in Johnson County.

No member of the state’s congressional delegation has endorsed any of the four candidates, an VanSlyke said she has no strong sense who the Saturday winner is likely to be.

The 2012 caucus will be a repeat for Romney and Paul. In the 2008 caucus, won by Mike Huckabee, Paul finished third with 11.2 percent, while Romney finished fourth with 3.3 percent support.

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