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ID: Democrats Caucus Tomorrow

By David Brown
For decades, Idaho was ultimate fly-over territory for Democratic presidential candidates.

The state was delegate-poor, Republican-dense, and caucuses were held in March when the race for the nomination was usually over. This year, however, the party moved its caucuses to a date when Idaho's voice, however faint, might have a chance of being heard.

It was enough to make a candidate touch down.

On Saturday morning, Barack Obama stopped briefly in Idaho and filled 14,000-seat Taco Bell Arena at Boise State University. (About 2,000 more were left outside, unable to get in.) He slipped once and called the state Iowa, a mistake presumably excused given the symbolism of his mere presence.

Only the Democrats are picking delegates tomorrow. The Republicans will vote for their candidates on May 27, primary day for all state and federal offices for both parties.

Idaho will send only 23 delegates to the Democratic convention, and only 18 will be picked tomorrow. The rest are superdelegates; one won't even be chosen until the state convention later this year.

But the state covers a lot of real estate on the Super Tuesday election maps. Political insiders think Obama figures it is worth some effort to make the state of "Famous Potatoes" his color tomorrow night.

Even before his weekend visit, Obama was essentially the only game in town. He has five offices in the state and about 20 full-time workers. Hillary Clinton has no office in Idaho.

The state, like some others in the West, has no voter registration by party. The caucuses are run on the honor system. People are asked to pledge they will vote in November and to declare they are true Democrats, not impostors trying to game the system. Delegates are awarded on a proportionate basis.

There has been no polling and little advertising, but lots of interest. Party officials expect turnout to be at least double the 5,000 who caucused last time.

The most important endorsement has come from Cecil Andrus, former governor and member of Jimmy Carter's cabinet. He's for Obama.

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 4, 2008; 5:49 PM ET
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