Republicans hope to get noticed in precinct caucuses

Minnesota Republicans get their time in the spotlight during Tuesday night’s precinct caucuses.

The GOP’s four major presidential candidates scheduled Minnesota appearances in the days leading up to the caucuses in an attempt to make a splash in the party’s straw poll.

“It is very important,” state Republican Chairman Pat Shortridge said of the non-binding poll. “Campaigns definitely do operate on the basis of momentum.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wants to maintain the momentum he gained by winning in Florida, Shortridge said, while “the others will look to slow him down, as it were.”

Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum visiting and advertising in Minnesota is getting noticed.

“We already have had international media calling us,” Shortridge said. “There is more interest than ever.”

Picking presidential candidates is just one job of caucus goers of the major parties, who gather in meeting rooms across the state at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Less noticed, but more important for the parties, is picking delegates to represent precincts at county and district conventions, leading to state conventions later this year. Those delegates will vote for candidates for various offices as well as have a say in party platforms.

Anyone who will be eligible to vote in elections this year and who generally agrees with the principles of the party may attend a caucus and vote.

“The world is run by those who show up,” Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said about the first major activity of the 2012 election year.

And, Senjem added, “it is not too cold this February.”

Shortridge expects 50,000 to 60,000 Republicans to attend caucuses, a little short of the record set last year.

The campaign season began with two Minnesotans in the presidential race, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, and the party chairman said even with them out, “enthusiasm is pretty high here.”

While both Republicans and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will hold presidential straw polls, President Barack Obama is a sure winner on the Democratic side.

“For several months now, we’ve had staff and volunteers on the ground — and while the Republicans are printing out their boarding passes to fly on to the next state, we’re here getting folks engaged for the caucuses and everything that will follow,” said Seth London, Obama’s Minnesota campaign director.

With an incumbent president, the DFL Party does not expect the same kind of turnout it had during 2008’s caucuses, Chairman Ken Martin said. Then, there was a record-high 220,000 people at DFL caucuses.

But while the DFL is expecting closer to 20,000 to 25,000 people, “we’re not seeing any complacency,” Martin said.

“People are excited about President Obama and want to support him and his agenda,” he said.

The Independence Party has almost doubled the number of physical caucus locations, with 43 around the state, but also is hosting online meetings.

“The caucus should be like meeting in your neighborhood to discuss the issues,” party Chairman Mark Jenkins said.

Everyone might not be able to make it out to a caucus location Tuesday night. So the Independence Party has planned a live online caucus.

“We’re excited; it’s pretty innovative,” Jenkins said.

The online caucus, to be convened by Jenkins, also will be paired with a weeklong digital discussion on key issues.

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Minnesotans may find their neighborhood caucus atcaucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us

More information about caucuses and elections is at mnvotes.org

Information about Minnesota’s three major parties is at:

– dfl.org

– independenceminnesota.org

– mngop.com

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