LIANE HANSEN, host:
The Republican presidential candidate who spent the most time campaigning in Wyoming has won the majority of that state's delegates to the national convention. Mitt Romney, after his second place finish in the Iowa caucuses, gained eight of Wyoming's 12 delegates. Republican state officials moved the caucus from March to January to try to attract national attention and make their caucus matter.
Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck reports on whether their gambit worked.
(Soundbite of crowd)
BOB BECK: The Wyoming caucus started early Saturday morning with people showing up to register and party officials greeting them. The representatives of the candidates supply them with signs, T-shirts and stickers. It also allowed for some last-minute questions.
Unidentified Man: Well, Dr. Paul believes basically in a strong national defense.
Unidentified Woman: All right.
Unidentified Man: You know, he believes that we should be able to secure our borders and then bring our troops home so that we can do more here locally.
BECK: Normally, Wyoming's county conventions are part of a process that gets ignored, not only nationally but locally as well. Usually, the excitement is limited to those lucky few delegates who get travel to the national conventions. But this year was different.
In individual convention, Wyoming's version of caucuses normally draws around 70 people. This time, it was closer to 250. Delegate Mike Mosher(ph) says people had been discussing this event for weeks. Even though only a handful of candidates campaigned in the state - Romney, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter - Mosher says the attention they got from the candidates was unprecedented.
Mr. MIKE MOSHER: There's one or two campaigns in particular where I've received something at least every other day. I could keep my house warm through the winter with the number of flyers if I put them in the fireplace.
BECK: While others were undecided, Elizabeth Schmidt(ph) knew exactly who she would support.
Ms. ELIZABETH SCHMIDT: I'm supporting Duncan Hunter because he is a conservative's conservative and there aren't any running right now.
BECK: Only five of the candidates had people speak on their behalf. With debates going on in New Hampshire, none of the candidates were in Wyoming at all, but they sent emissaries. Duncan Hunter's wife, Lynn, showed up, as did Mitt Romney's son, Josh. In the end, Romney grabbed the most votes, and Josh Romney credited his father's knowledge of key Western issues.
Mr. JOSH ROMNEY: We have a ranch out here and I have a ranch out here, so we spend a lot of time out here. And I've gotten to know a lot of wildlife issues and ranching issues that pertain particularly to the West. And my dad's also got, I believe strongly, (unintelligible).
BECK: Republican State caucus coordinator Tom Sansonetti says Wyoming is small enough that people expect to meet the candidates. And they notice when people don't come to the state.
Mr. TOM SANSONETTI (Republican Coordinator for County Convention, Wyoming): Those that showed did well. Duncan Hunter did very well, and he was here, as I understand it, three times. Ron Paul did okay. Fred Thompson, who came to Casper, got the second most votes up there. So, if you come, you do well. And so notice, by the way, how many votes Mike Huckabee got.
BECK: That would be zero. Both Huckabee and John McCain were totally shut out in Cheyenne and did not gain any delegates in the state; neither do Rudy Giuliani. While some may poke fun at Wyoming's attempt to get some attention, Sansonetti maintains that it worked. Candidates campaigned in the state for the first time in years, and Sansonetti believes Wyoming will get even more respect and attention four years from now.
For NPR News, I'm Bob Beck in Cheyenne.
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