Confusion, passion at Missouri Caucuses
The Missouri Caucuses promised to be a bewildering mess from the outset. There would be no announcement of total delegates won because there would be no bound delegates in the first place. Also, no straw poll was taken so there was no way to guage the sentiment of caucus goers.
To top it off, at a caucus meeting outside of St. Louis, there was a near riot as 2500 people tried to participate.
A caucus at a school near St. Louis where roughly 2,500 Republicans had gathered was adjourned before a vote could take place because it got so rowdy that extra police were summoned and two people were arrested for trespassing. Elsewhere, political tensions and divisions led to recounts not only on votes over which candidates should be supported, but even which people should preside over the caucuses.
"It looks like a chaotic day around Missouri," said former senator Jim Talent, a Romney campaign adviser who participated in one of the more politically divided caucuses in St. Louis County.
There was no declared winner from Missouri's nearly 140 local caucuses. That's because state party rules did not require delegates to be bound to any particular candidate and no straw poll was conducted. Rather, the local caucuses were to elect 2,123 people to advance to congressional district conventions April 21 and a state convention June 2. It's at those meetings that the bulk of Missouri's 52 delegates will be bound to presidential candidates.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, won Missouri's non-binding presidential primary in February and was the only candidate to campaign at caucus sites Saturday, focusing his efforts in St. Louis County. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and Paul, a Texas congressman, campaigned in Missouri earlier in the week. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich mounted no effort in Missouri.
Most observers believe Santorum will probably get the most delegates out of this process, but both Ron Paul and Mitt Romney appeared to carry a good share of county and township caucuses as well.
The campaign now moves on to Illinois where Santorum is doing better than expected against Mitt Romney in advance of next Tuesday's primary.