BY MICHAEL H. O’DONNELL
Mitt Romney and Ron Paul finished neck-to-neck in a second online straw poll conducted in Idaho Feb. 2-4. Romney received 45.4 percent of the vote and Paul finished with 42.7 percent.
The Internet-based presidential straw poll posted by former New Meadows City Councilman Ronald Wittig at www.idahostrawpoll.com is open for a third round of voting March 1-3, just ahead of the Idaho Republican Caucus.
Paul’s second place finish stands in stark contrast to the 73.5 percent he received in the first round of the straw poll conducted in January. In that round, Rick Santorum had 8 percent; Newt Gingrich, 7.3 percent; and Mitt Romney, 5.1 percent.
“Seventy-five percent of the votes came from Southeast Idaho,” Wittig said about the second round. He said he suspects Romney has strong support among eastern Idaho Republicans.
Wittig gave credit for the strong showing from this part of the state to a story on his effort which was published in the Journal, saying, “It definitely made a difference.”
Finishing behind Romney and Paul in the February voting were Santorum with 4.5 percent; Gingrich, 3.8 percent; and President Obama, 3.1 percent.
On the heels of the third online straw poll, registered Idaho Republicans will let the state know how they feel when the statewide caucuses are held in each county March 6. Bannock County will hold its caucus in the Idaho State University Student Union Ballroom beginning at 6 p.m. A total of 32 delegates to the Republican National Convention will be selected statewide.
The times and locations for the caucuses in many counties are still being set.
Caucus voting will take place in a series of rounds. After the first round of voting, a count will be taken and any candidate with less than 15 percent of the vote total or in last place will be eliminated from votes in the second round. Rounds of voting will continue until a single candidate emerges as the winner in each county.
When the Idaho Republican State Convention is held in Twin Falls in June, Bannock County will have 17 state delegates; Bingham, 12; Power, Caribou and Bear Lake, 5 each; and Oneida, 4. At the state convention, delegates moving on to the national GOP nominating convention will be decided.
This will be the first time Idaho has selected delegates for a presidential nomination using a caucus system. The Idaho Republican party will hold a primary election May 15, but presidential candidates will not be on that ballot. The primary ballot will contain any inter-party contests for the federal and state legislative races, county races or other state offices.