Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman is reporting today that the Idaho Republican Party is discussing the possibility of abandoning the mid-May presidential primary for earlier caucuses. The party's State Central Committee will take up the caucus proposal passed by a subcommittee recently during its July 16 meeting.
Now, as the article states, Idaho Democrats have traditionally used a caucus in lieu of the state funded primary. State Democrats have already opted to once again hold caucuses, selecting an April 14 date. Republicans, too, now seem willing to give up that state funding by funding their own delegate selection event at a time on the presidential primary calendar that may provide the state with some measure of influence over the identity of the Republican nominee. That would leave a meaningless beauty contest Idaho primary in May at the presidential level. Idaho is a state that holds concurrent presidential and state/local primaries, and the latter contests would make the May primary partially meaningful.
One footnote that I would add to all of this is that this is an interesting development in light of Monday's late night news out of Utah. Recall that I made the argument yesterday that the Romney campaign would want a Utah primary on March 6, coupled with contests in Colorado and later Hawaii (March 13) to counteract the former Massachusetts governor's perceived weakness in the South. A Colorado/Idaho/Utah series of wins would partially counter losses in the host of southern states holding primaries during the first two weeks of March.
Theoretically, this sounds good. Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen recently tweeted that Romney is the "key to the Mountain West for GOP" in the general election. Further, he adds, "It really might be fair to say GOP nominating anyone other than Romney locks down 2008 pick ups of CO/NM/NV for Obama, puts AZ on the board." I should emphasize that this is in relation to the general election and not the primaries, so it isn't the same thing. However, Mitt Romney won nominating contests in all three (Colorado, Idaho and Utah) in 2008. Caucuses in Colorado and Idaho may be a different animal in 2012, though. They would be potentially more difficult to control. However, if all the other candidates are focused on the southern contests, Romney may be able to focus his resources on organizing in those three western contests with only moderate (or even token) expenditures in the South.
And yeah, I'm willing to bet that this caucus idea came up at least once during the fundraiser Romney held -- and mentioned in the Statesman article -- in Boise last week. Call it a hunch.
Prominent Utah Legislators Don't Appear to Have a Desire to Appropriate Money for a Presidential Primary