Idaho may not be the most delegate-laden state voting today, but who Idahoans choose to coalesce around tonight could have a major affect on how the rest of the Republican primary process unfolds.
Idahoans will be caucusing for the first time in 2012, so there is no benchmark for turnout at the caucuses. There will be a caucus in each of the Gem State’s 44 counties, and the delegates will be divided proportionately between the candidates. While there are no public polls from which to draw conclusions, conventional wisdom would suggest former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney should easily win the state because of the state’s large population of Mormons.
Nearly a quarter of the state’s population identifies themselves as LDS, and thus far this cycle Mormons have broken heavily for the former Massachusetts governor, who shares their religion. Romney has also picked up a slew of endorsements from top Republicans in Idaho including Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, Senator Jim Risch and Congressman Mike Simpson.
However, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s strength in the agricultural community could help him in the Gem State. Santorum has received higher ratings than Romney from leading agricultural interest groups including the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
Gem State voters haven’t had much time to mingle with the Presidential candidates – Santorum visited Boise, the state’s capital, once last month while Romney has only held two rallies and a fundraiser in the state.
Only Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has made several trips to Idaho, has been in the state within the past week, hosting town hall meetings and touring Quest Aircraft Company.
For these reasons, Red Alert Politics predicts a strong first place finish for Mitt Romney and a comfortable second place for Ron Paul, whose entire presidential campaign strategy is based on winning overlooked caucus states like Idaho. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich will likely come in third and fourth respectively.