The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 17, 2012

Santorum receives support in Jasper, Newton counties

GOP caucus approaches vary in jurisdictions

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Republicans who participated in caucuses Saturday in Jasper and Newton counties made known preferences for presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

Of the 359 GOP members who participated in the Jasper County caucus, 54 percent, or 194, voted for the former Pennsylvania senator, according to John Putnam, Jasper County Republican Committee chairman.

Of the 195 who participated in the Newton County caucus, the vast majority displayed a preference for Santorum, according to Nick Myers, county GOP chairman. Myers said votes were not recorded at his caucus, but that participants indicated preferences by voice or standing.

Myers said that the caucus outcome did mirror the result of the nonbinding presidential primary in February.

Caucus voters were also passionate about their candidates. Although some political analysts think the contentious primary season might divide GOP voters come November, state Rep. Tom Flanigan believes it is healthy for people to be passionate about their candidate of choice.

“You should feel strongly about the candidate that you’re supporting, so I think that is a good thing,” he said. “They’re having a peaceful meeting in there, and it’s a good thing for them to all come together and talk to each other, because at the end of the day, all of the people here in Jasper County want to solidify behind a candidate to run against President Barack Obama.”

Nate Dally, of Carthage, was disappointed that, for a time, the Jasper County meeting devolved into a battle over rules calling for all delegates to be bound to a particular candidate.

“It ended up being more of a rules meeting than talking about candidates,” he said.

Dally, who is a Mitt Romney supporter, said some of the candidates to whom some delegates are bound might drop out of the race in the near future.

“The problem with having our delegates bound is, if one of these candidates drops out of the race, Jasper County’s delegates will look pretty silly as a group supporting a candidate who has dropped out of the race.”

Dally said he supports Romney because he believes Romney has the best chance of reaching across the aisle to work with congressional Democrats.

“I think he’s the more centrist candidate who represents more of the values of the people of our country as opposed to one party or the other,” he said.

 Dally said that if the delegates were unbound, they could vote for the candidate of their choice at the regional convention. However, Jane Obert, a Santorum supporter, said the uproar over bound delegates was a storm in a teacup.

Obert thinks the protestations about the rules and the proposed amendments were a political ploy to frustrate Santorum supporters.

“I felt like the only reason that there was this confab about the rules coming up was to try to disenfranchise people and frustrate them into leaving and not voting in the straw pole,” he said.

In the end, Putnam said the original rules prevailed and the vote moved forward.

“The original rule was to allocate them based on a percentage of the straw poll that we took here at the meeting, and that rule was upheld in the final analysis, and we did assign delegates proportionally to the various candidates based on their percentage in the straw poll,” he said.

Santorum’s total was more than twice as much as his closest rival and give him 25 of 46 total delegates from Jasper County for the congressional district convention.

 Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul on Saturday polled 22.8 percent, or 82 votes, and received 11 delegates. Former Massachusetts governor and Republican front-runner Romney garnered seven delegates and 59 votes, or 16.4 percent of the total. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich received three delegates from 24 votes, or 6.69 percent, of the vote.

Santorum’s margin of victory declined from the primary, but Putnam believes that was the result of Gingrich being included in the caucus vote but not in the primary.

In Newton County, Myers said, the preferences indicated closely matched those of the results of the primary. In the primary, Santorum received about 76 percent of the nonbinding vote.

Newton County Republicans named 26 uncommitted delegates and 26 alternates to the party’s district convention.

Delegates elected from Jasper County will attend the regional convention in Pierce City on April 12. Delegates from that convention will go on to the state convention in Springfield on June 2.

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