It was before 10 p.m. when it became clear that Kootenai County’s votes didn’t matter in Tuesday’s Idaho Republican caucus.
And the only thing Kootenai County Republicans had decided was that former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer wouldn’t be their choice.
Results from other counties showed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would win enough votes regardless of Kootenai County to win all 32 of the state’s delegates.
That announcement, however, wasn’t made in the Lakeland High School gym in Rathdrum, where about 800 of the nearly 3,800 participants in the county’s caucuses gathered.
They lined up, row by gymnasium row, showed their red wristbands to party volunteers, and dropped ballots behind a curtain into one of five boxes representing the candidate they wanted to lead the nation.
Kootenai County Republican Chairwoman Tina Jacobson waited in the gym to receive the results of each location. But they were slow coming, and there was a lot of waiting.
“It’s going to get ugly,” Jacobson told her colleagues as time passed.
The wait was mostly filled by participants who took the mic to make pitches for their candidates.
Most Republicans patiently stuck with the process, but many left after the first vote. About 1,000 left between the second and third rounds.
“I thought it was good, but when you start at 7 o’clock at night, you don’t have eight hours to do it,” said Dee Ann Rice, who chose Texas Congressman Ron Paul in the first round but left after that. “We have to get up real early to go to work.”
The complicated process included multiple voting rounds in which the last-place candidate and candidates receiving less than 15 percent of the vote were eliminated.
In round one, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich barely broke 15 percent and that meant only Roemer, who received eight votes out 3,800, was eliminated for round two. In the first round, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum topped the list with 1,327 votes. Paul had 989. Romney had 881 and Gingrich had 570. In round two, Santorum had 1,137, Paul 740, Romney 534 and Gingrich 201.
Round three was under way late Tuesday. (Check spokesman.com for updated information.)
Paul had the most vocal supporters at the event. A few walked around the gym with giant pictures of Paul’s smiling face on a stick.
“He seems to be the one candidate who would make a substantial difference,” said Bill Connelly, of Rathdrum. “The others seem to be par for the course.”
But Dorene Russell, of Hayden, said while she likes a lot of Paul’s thoughts on domestic issues, she believes his foreign policy ideas are “naïve.”
She cast her support to Santorum.
“I like his traditional, conservative values,” she said.