Washington Caucuses
6:59 am
Mon March 5, 2012

Robust Turnout, Tense Moments As Republicans Caucus For President

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s Republican caucuses over the weekend gave Mitt Romney a boost going into Super Tuesday. The straw poll was non-binding, but it still attracted robust turnout from Republicans. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has this wrap up from both sides of the Cascades.

At the Olympia Red Lion Inn, the line snaked through the lobby and down two flights of stairs to the registration tables.

Kathleen Holland: “It’s very crowded in there. So just be patient.”

This was one of two pooled locations for Thurston County caucus-goers. Local party chairman John O’Callahan says turnout was three times what he expected.

“This is just great," he says. "I wish we had this problem all the time.”

Inside the hotel ballroom, an estimated 700 people -– standing room only. Precinct committee officers held numbered signs high above their heads so voters would know where to find their precinct.

Barry Kirk: “428. We’re trying to find 428.”

Over on the East side of the state, in the Tri-Cities, things were about to get tense. People at the back of a caucus check-in line were warned the doors were about to close.

Volunteer: “Everyone standing in line back here will not get in.”

Organizers feared if they didn’t stick to schedule the results might not count. But soon they had a near riot on their hands.

"Unjust caucus. Unjust caucus. So our right to vote is taken away. We were here early enough.”

Despite this flashpoint, caucus-goers were generally upbeat. They sported hats, t-shirts and stickers for their candidates of choice. There were conservatives for Newt Gingrich. Evangelicals for Rick Santorum. Even former Obama supporters for Ron Paul. And Mormons like Karen Mullins of Richland for Mitt Romney.

“It’s like having my big brother running," she says. "I feel that kind of a bond with him.”

Even if Republicans have not yet coalesced behind a single candidate, they do seem united behind a slogan you heard a lot at the caucuses: Anybody but Obama in 2012.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network