Washington caucuses open their doors
Updated 3:40 p.m. ET
(CBS News) Although most political watchers are looking ahead to Tuesday - also known as "Super Tuesday" - when ten states will hold their nominating contest, Washington state holds its caucuses today, and the Republican presidential candidates aren't taking the contest for granted.
Registered voters head to caucus sites around the state beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET today to offer their preference for the Republican nominee in a non-binding straw poll. Results aren't expected until later this afternoon or evening, but it is up to the state Republican Party, and they could release results at any time.
Washington has 40 delegates at stake, but since today's events are technically non-binding, the more important aspect for the candidates is that the winner will add the state to its win column.
Moreover, the Evergreen State is any candidate's for the taking. A small percentage of voters are expected to participate (only 12,000 people did in 2008), which means the most active and passionate turn out.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul hopes to reap the benefits of the impassioned crowd. He has been running ads and campaigning in the northwestern state, continuing his strategy of focusing on caucus states filled with what he calls the "irate, tireless minority." Paul is spending the day there today by meeting with caucus participants in Puyallup, and holding a caucus night party in Seattle.
The other candidates are not turning a blind eye. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum have all visited the state or run campaign ads there. Little polling has been conducted, making it difficult to predict a front-runner.
In 2008, Washington's caucus coincided with a primary that had much higher turnout - over half a million voters. According to nwnews.com, the state did away with its primary election this year due to budget restraints.
In 2008, Ron Paul placed third in the caucuses and fourth in the primary while Mitt Romney placed fourth in the caucuses and third in the primary. Senator John McCain and Mike Huckabee placed first and second respectively in both Washington state contests four years ago.
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