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Kootenai caucuses: Santorum edges Paul

Welcome to the unpredictable, and often protracted, world of caucuses, Idaho Republicans.

The system the Idaho GOP set up for balloting led to a long night in Kootenai County, where as many as four ballots were needed to winnow the field down to a winner.

As colleague Jonathan Brunt reported from Lakeland High School in Rathdrum, the only person knocked out in the first round of balloting was Buddy Roemer. Who? you might well ask. Roemer is a former Louisiana governor who has been shut out of the plethora of GOP debates and is now running as an independent.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich was eliminated on the second ballot. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on the third, and the fourth ballot showdown between former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul went to Santorum. Not that it mattered because by then, the statewide winner was already decided.

Read Jonathan Brunt's account here.

To see a map of who won each Idaho county, click here.

Romney wins Spokane County straw poll

Mitt Romney pulled off a razor thin victory in the straw poll of Republicans attending their precinct caucuses Saturday morning.

The former Massachusetts governor topped former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum by 10 votes — 1,521 to 1,511 — in Spokane County. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul was third with 1,340 and former Newt Gingrich a distant fourth with 411.

Paul won Spokane County in 2008, and his supporters became active in the local party. He made two visits to Spokane in the last two weeks, but Santorum may have received a boost from a stop in the heavily Republican Spokane Valley on Thursday.

Romney didn't make a campaign stop in the Spokane area, but one of his sons did, and his state campaign chairwoman is Eastern Washington's congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

“I hope that we can start unifying behind our nominee and start building that enthusiasm,” an ecstatic McMorris Rodgers said Saturday evening.

AP: Romney wins Washington straw poll

Mitt Romney won Washington's presidential straw poll that accompanied today's Republican precinct caucuses, the Associated Press reports.

The AP bulletin goes a bit far by saying Romney was “nominated president, Washington.”

The straw poll doesn't award delegates who will vote to nominate a candidate at the Republican National Convention this summer. That's decided in a process that began today with the precinct caucuses, but doesn't conclude until early June when delegates to the national convention are selected at the state convention.

The results are from a ballot handed to caucus attendees as they entered the meetings Saturday morning.

With tallies still coming in, the former Massachusetts governor has about 37 percent of the votes, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum have about 24 percent each. 

GOP caucuses: Romney leading in King, Pierce

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took an early lead in the state's most populous counties, King and Pierce, in a straw poll conducted for the state Republican precinct caucuses.

In early returns, Romney had more than half the votes reported  in Seattle and King County, and more than a third of the votes in Pierce County. He was leading in most of western Washington counties that had reported. In Eastern Washington, final results showed him with 60 votes in Adams County, which was about 58 percent of the ballots cast, and 281 votes, or 40 percent of those cast in Franklin County.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul had won Okanogan, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Pacific and Klickitat counties, which are less populous and have already turned in complete results. He was leading in Whitman and Asotin counties as well. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum took more than half the votes in Columbia County and finished four votes ahead of Paul in Lincoln County.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trails the field with about 11 percent of the votes statewide, and has not yet finished first in any county.

The straw poll results are based on a ballot caucus attendees were given as the arrived for the meetings. It doesn't award delegates to any of the candidates; that happens through a process that begins with the precinct caucuses and ends at the state convention in June.

GOP caucuses: Paul leads Pend Oreille, Ferry; Santorum leads Lincoln

Eastern Washington appears split on its favorite for the Republican nominee to take on Barack Obama in the fall.

In early returns from a straw poll of people attending the GOP precinct caucuses, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul is leading in Asotin, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in Lincoln and Columbia counties, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Adams and Garfield counties.

Statewide, Romney holds a slim lead with 1,272 votes or about 31 percent of those counted; Paul is second with 1,116 votes or 27 percent and Santorum third with 991 or 24 percent. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich is a distant fourth, with 556 votes or 13.5 percent.