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Gingrich: WA going right route on gay marriage, but people should vote it down

Gingrich answers questions at an Olympia press conference.

OLYMPIA — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he thinks allowing same-sex couples to marry is wrong, but the path Washington is taking to change its law is right.

Voters should have a chance to decide the issue, rather than the courts, Gingrich said. The Legislature passed, and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed, a bill to allow same-sex marriage but opponents have filed a referendum that would delay the law and block it if they gather enough signatures by June 6.

"I don't agree with it. If I were voting, I'd vote no," Gingrich said during a break in meetings with Republican legislators this morning. "But at least they're doing it the right way."

During a later news conference with local reporters, the Republican presidential candidate said he's changed his mind on medical marijuana and no longer supports efforts to have the federal government reclassify the drug so it could be prescribed for certain conditions.

He did support such reclassification in the 1980s, he said, but changed his position: "I was convinced by parents who didn't want any suggestion made to their children that drugs were appropriate."

States don't have the right to pass medical marijuana laws and then allow some sort of distribution system to be set up, he added. "I think the federal government has been very clear… that federal law trumps state law."

Semanko: Idaho Big, Early Prize

The following comment by Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko appeared on iSightonline: "On Super Tuesday, March 6th, the day of Idaho’s Republican Presidential Nomination Caucus, every county in the state will hold a County Caucus.  Instead of selecting Idaho’s nominee for the GOP presidential candidate at the polls in the May primaries, voters must show up to participate in their counties’ Caucuses.  Idaho has 32 delegates to send to the national convention.  That is more delegates than Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada.  Idaho will be a big, early prize for the winning Republican Presidential candidate, and we should expect to see candidates paying more attention to Idaho Republican voters." More here.

Question: Do you agree with Chairman Semanko that Idaho is a big, early prize in the GOP presidential race?

Will Santorum catch fire in WA?

Washington Republicans held a "straw poll" over the last week of December to test the strength of the presidential candidate field. It pretty well mirrored Iowa and the nation…at that time.

Here's the breakdown, released yesterday by the Washington State Republican Party:

Candidate Percentage
Mitt Romney 27.49%
Newt Gingrich 25.77%
Ron Paul 18.43%
Rick Santorum 11.31%
Michele Bachmann 8.76%
Rick Perry 5.47%
Jon Huntsman 2.77%

In that least week of 2011, Gingrich was starting to fade and Rick Santorum was just beginning an uptick in Iowa, and that can be read in to the Washington numbers. Swap those two results, and the top four look quite a bit like Iowa caucus results.

Remember: Washington is also a caucus state this year…as opposed to some strange hybrid of a caucus and a presidential primary, as it has been for the last couple of cycles.

Caucuses set on different dates

OLYMPIA — Washington Republicans and Democrats will hold their precinct caucuses on different days — actually they'll hold them in different months — in the first step of the presidential nominating process next year.

Republicans have scheduled their precinct caucuses for Saturday March 3, which should be fairly early in the nominating process. Some people might argue that right now seems late in the nominating process, after all the GOP presidential debates, but in truth the picking doesn't begin in earnest until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Those aren't scheduled yet, but are expected to occur in February, followed quickly by the South Carolina primary and the Nevada caucuses.

Under national GOP rules, only states which award delegates proportionately to the top candidates can hold their primaries or caucuses in March. States that have "winner take all" systems must wait until at least April.

Washington Republicans theoretically will split their delegates among candidates based on caucus support. But it's important to remember that the caucuses are just the beginning of the process. Supporters who become delegates must then fight through a county and state convention where the delegates to the national convention are finally decided. So in theory a candidate who did very well in in the March precinct caucuses might be out of the race by the June state convention, and those delegates might realign with someone else.

On the Democraticside, things are a bit less complicated, because, well, they already know who their nominee is going to be. They scheduled precinct caucuses for April 15, which is a Sunday. County conventions will follow soon after.

By holding the caucuses on different dates, the parties theoretically have allowed for something they always complain about with primaries in a state in which no one registers by party. That is, that Democrats could attend Republican caucuses to cause mischief, and vice versa. It's possible because the only critieria for participating in a party caucus is to say that for this particular day, you consider yourself a member of that party.

That could change tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett O'Hara once observed.

Which is not to say that we believe such chicanery will happen. But for parties that were always extremely suspicious of it happening in primaries — to the point of suing to overturn more the blanket primary system that lasted for more than a half century — they seem unconcerned about that happening in the caucuses.

Bottom line, though, is that for the Republican presidential selection, the Washington precinct caucuses might be early enough to draw some attention from candidates.