Rick Santorum won’t be able to get a huge delegate win in the Missouri caucuses this Saturday — in fact, nobody will, because there is not actually any direct voting on who the caucus attendees want to nominate.
Santorum previously won the state’s non-binding primary in a landslide on Feb. 7, beating Mitt Romney by a margin of 55%-25%. The result helped to lift up Santorum’s prospects as the new anti-Romney conservative choice, but the delegate selection process would not begin until the caucuses on March 17.
But keep in mind that in Republican caucuses, the percentages that we see reported are in fact the result of a non-binding preference poll. The real action occurs in a longer process, staring with election of the precinct’s delegates to county, district or state conventions, which will culminate in the election of national delegates. (The assumption is that the local delegate election will closely match the results of the straw polls — though this is not automatically true.)
And this weekend, while Missouri caucus-goers will be electing their local delegates, there is no straw poll that would provide an easily-referenced number for who won.
TPM asked state GOP spokesman Jonathon Prouty when this decision was made and announced, to not hold a straw poll? And what was the thinking behind not having one, like other states do?
As it turns out, this is not a recent development at all, Prouty explained — it was announced last fall, and continues past practice from the last time a caucus process was used.
“The Call to Convention, which was passed by our State Committee last September, lays out the caucus process and does not include a provision for a straw poll. (It is available on our website here: http://www.mogop.org/docs/sc2012/sc2012_call_to_convention.pdf),” Prouty wrote back in an e-mail. “This is consistent with the what happened in 1996, the last time we selected delegates through the caucus process.
“We have been reaching out to state and national press to ensure everyone is on the same page (the AP elections division marked the MO caucuses as a non-tabulation event months ago)… but we have increased our efforts as we have approached the caucuses.”
Prouty further confirmed to TPM that we will all get an idea of who actually won later on, at the eight Congressional district conventions on April 21, when 24 national delegates in total will be chosen. The result would likely be reflective of the local caucuses’ preferences. Another 25 delegates will then be chosen at the state convention, on June 1 and June 2.
Furthermore, it will be up to each district or state convention, whether to select delegates on any individual or proportional basis, or whether to elect a winner-take-all slate.
In short, it’s going to be a while before we find out who won the Missouri caucuses — but it will happen.