Campaign officials for Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan think they will win tonight’s Washington precinct caucuses and are angry their victory won’t be announced for weeks.
Bruce Hawkins, a state coordinator for Buchanan, said Monday that delaying the results may be “a screw-up” by state GOP leaders.
Or it may be an attempt to blunt an expected Buchanan victory among the state’s Republican activists, he said.
In either case, Hawkins said, “there’s no excuse for it.”
The state GOP announced last week it will delay releasing results from the caucuses, which start the state’s presidential nominating process. Party officials decided they would not be able to get reliable data from thousands of precincts in the hours after the caucuses had adjourned.
“It’s not the kind of thing we’ve ever seen in Washington before,” said Hawkins, who was active in the Pat Robertson presidential campaign that captured the caucuses in 1988.
In other presidential years, preliminary caucus results were released the night of the meetings, with updates in subsequent days. This year, the party will only release a final tally, which may take three weeks.
Todd Myers, a spokesman for the state GOP, said he understands Hawkins’ concern, but argued the delay is needed to ensure the correct results are announced.
“He’s got a campaign to run and his interest is to get any sort of boost he can for his candidate,” Myers said. “Our job is to get the results, and get them right.”
Bay Buchanan, the candidate’s sister and campaign director, called the state GOP to complain over the weekend. Buchanan himself criticized party officials on “Meet the Press” Sunday, charging that they had canceled a straw poll during the precinct caucuses he expected to win.
Myers said that’s not true. The straw poll - part of a questionnaire each Republican attending a caucus will answer - has not been canceled.
But like the count of delegates, the straw poll results will not be released tonight, Myers said.
Other campaigns have not complained, he added.
Lance Henderson, state coordinator for the Dole campaign, said he understands getting quick results from thousands of caucuses is complicated and expensive.
The caucuses are the beginning, not the end of the process, so results can change as delegates attend county and state conventions, he said.
Precinct officers have a week to mail caucus results to county leaders, who have another week to mail those results to the state. Because of that, state officials say they cannot guarantee results will be released before March 25.
That’s the day before the state’s presidential primary. Another 18 delegates will be awarded based on the results of that vote.
That’s cutting it close, Hawkins said.
“All of the suspicions at the national campaign would come true if Buchanan won the caucuses, but those results somehow didn’t get released until after the primary,” he said.
The party’s credibility would take a bigger hit if it announced one winner tonight based on partial results, and had to correct that later when all precincts had reported, Myers said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CAUCUSES TONIGHT Republicans and Democrats begin their presidential nominating process in Washington state at 8 tonight with precinct caucuses. Caucuses are meetings of neighbors to discuss issues and show support for candidates. They elect delegates to the next round of political meetings, county conventions, where that process of discussing issues and supporting candidates continues. Precincts sometimes meet at the home of local party officers, but more often gather at nearby schools or churches. Republicans and Democrats usually hold their meetings at different locations. A list of caucus locations appeared on Page B3 of Sunday’s Spokesman-Review. Questions about caucus rules or locations can be answered by local party officials, at 838-6162 for Republicans or 324-8525 for Democrats.