GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul drew a crowd of 1,200 supporters to a noon rally at the Bonner County Fairgrounds in Sandpoint today, the AP reports, a crowd the campaign called "massive;" this AP photo shows Paul addressing the crowd. The Boise Weekly has a report here from Zach Hagadone on the event and Paul's appeal in North Idaho.
The rally comes as Idaho's Super Tuesday GOP presidential caucus approaches tomorrow night; at 7 p.m. local time (and 6 p.m. in a few), in every one of the state's 44 counties, Republicans will gather at local caucuses to decide which GOP candidate the state should support for the presidential nomination. The first-time event has drawn every major contender for the nomination to campaign in Idaho in the past two weeks; Paul also plans a 3 p.m. rally today at the Kibbie Dome at the University of Idaho in Moscow; a 7 p.m. rally tonight at the Civil Auditorium of Idaho Falls; and a noon rally tomorrow at the Nampa Civic Center. Other major candidates campaigning in Idaho have included Mitt Romney, who has the endorsement of most of Idaho's top GOP elected officials; Rick Santorum, who held enthusiastic rallies in Boise and Coeur d'Alene; and Newt Gingrich, who campaigned in North Idaho.
"All four candidates have been campaigning hard in Idaho and have campaign staff on the ground and have personally visited the state," said Idaho GOP executive director Jonathan Parker. "And as far as anyone can remember, that's a first."
In the past, Idaho Democrats have held presidential nominating caucuses, but Idaho Republicans made their picks in the May primary - by which time the contest generally was all but over. This year's move up to Super Tuesday, when 10 states are having GOP caucuses or primaries, has upped the ante, with 32 Idaho delegates to the GOP nominating convention at stake.
Idaho may be Paul's best bet to win a state; despite Romney's high-profile Idaho GOP support, Paul won the straw poll the party held on Jan. 6, when 399 party members paid $30 each to cast ballots for the presidential candidate of their choice. "He's clearly putting all his eggs in Idaho's basket," Parker said. "He's advertising, he's done mail, he's been here more than anybody else." There are even rumors that Paul will personally attend the Ada County and/or Canyon County caucuses tomorrow night, though there's no confirmation of that.
There's lots of info about the GOP caucus at the party's caucus website here, including information about each county's plans. Ada County's caucus will be at the Taco Bell Arena at BSU, where doors will open at 4 p.m.; Canyon County's will be at the Idaho Center, where doors open at 4:30. Kootenai County has 10 locations, with doors opening at 5 p.m.