Archive for Thursday, January 10, 2008

Parties hope caucuses will draw interest

January 10, 2008

The question isn't what's the matter with Kansas, but will Kansas matter.

State politicos are hopeful that come Feb. 5, when Kansas Democrats will caucus, and Feb. 9 when Kansas Republicans caucus, that the presidential races will remain close enough for candidates to care about voters in Kansas.

"It would be nice," Joe Aistrup, head of the political science department at Kansas State University, said Wednesday. "I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of presidential candidates come to Kansas, but it depends on what takes place in the other states between now and then."

Christian Morgan, executive director of the state GOP, said Kansas could become a player in the Republican presidential sweepstakes since no front-runner has emerged after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

"The more the lineup changes from first to fourth, the better it looks for Kansas," Morgan said.

After Tuesday's New Hampshire primaries, candidates hit the road to slug it out in primaries in Michigan, Nevada, Florida and South Carolina before so-called Super Tuesday on Feb. 5 when voters in more than 20 states will pick a candidate.

Morgan noted that the Kansas caucuses would award 36 delegates. For winning the New Hampshire primary, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona received seven delegates.

Morgan said the fact that the Kansas Republican caucuses are on Feb. 9 - rather than the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday - may also give them more importance.

"Since we are on the ninth, it sets us apart," he said. The only other Republican caucuses that night are in Louisiana and Washington.

On Feb. 5, 32 delegates will be up for grabs when Kansas Democrats meet. But Kansas Democrats on that date will share the stage with numerous delegate-rich states, such as California, New York and New Jersey and nearly half the voters in the country.

Still Kansas Democratic Party officials were optimistic that the state would get some attention from the candidates themselves.

"It's a pretty close race, so every delegate will count in the end," said Jenny Davidson, communications director for the State Democratic Party.

Aistrup said the odds are small that Kansas could be important in the Democratic Party selection process, but he added, "If (Hillary) Clinton and (Barack) Obama continue to split, they could be neck and neck" by the time Kansas Democrats mull their selection.

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