AP Decision Notes: What to expect in Idaho’s GOP caucuses

WASHINGTON — If life cancels your primaries, hold a caucus.

That’s what Idaho Republicans will do this Saturday when they gather in rallies across the state to help choose their party’s presidential nominee.

State lawmakers originally hoped to save money by consolidating the March 12 presidential primaries with their May 21 primaries for state and local offices. But after passing legislation last year that canceled the March primary, lawmakers failed to take the extra step of moving the event to the May date, effectively canceling the presidential election entirely — seemingly unintentionally.

Instead, the state parties will hold presidential caucuses this year: the Republicans on Saturday and the Democrats on May 23.

Former President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, his former U.N. ambassador, will compete for the state’s 32 Republican delegates. Haley wants to score her first victory against Trump, but given voting patterns in previous elections this year, she’s unlikely to find it in Idaho.

In their previous matchups, Haley has generally performed best among voters in areas that tend to support Democrats in elections, while Trump has generally done best in areas that traditionally favor Republicans. Trump finished a distant second in the 2016 Idaho primary behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but Trump’s loss in the state eight years ago to a deeply conservative candidate does not reveal a clear path to victory for Haley this year.

The Republican caucuses will largely resemble the first caucuses in the country that Republicans organized in Iowa in January. Voters across the state will meet at designated caucus locations and hear brief pitches on behalf of the various candidates. They then vote by secret ballot, with the results tabulated at each caucus location. The vote totals from all caucus sites are added together and the results are used to determine how many delegates each candidate won.

The last time Idaho Republicans held presidential caucuses was in 2012, when Mitt Romney, now a senator in Utah, won with 62% of the vote as part of that year’s Super Tuesday.

A look at what to expect on election night:

The caucuses will meet at 3:30 PM EST, which is 1:30 PM MST and 12:30 PM PST. Idaho is located in both the Mountain and Pacific time zones. Participants can check in as early as 2:00 PM EST, which is 12:00 PM MST and 11:00 AM PST. There is no set end time for the caucuses.

The caucuses are the only contest on the ballot. Besides Haley and Trump, the other names on the ballot are those of former candidates Ryan Binkley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy.

Only voters registered as Republicans in Idaho are allowed to participate in the caucuses. The deadline for registration was December 31.

All 32 of Idaho’s Republican delegates will be awarded to the candidate who receives more than 50% of the statewide vote. If no candidate receives a voting majority, delegates are allocated in proportion to statewide voting results, although a candidate must receive at least 15% to qualify for delegates.

The state party is expected to announce the final results of the vote and the winner of the primary at some point during caucus night. The Associated Press winner call will be based on the state party’s announcement.

As of February 1, there were more than 581,000 registered Republicans in Idaho, about 58% of all registered voters. The last time the state party held presidential caucuses, in 2012, nearly 45,000 votes were cast, about a fifth of all registered Republicans at the time.

State party caucus rules do not provide for early or absentee voting.

There has been no recent presidential caucus to provide an accurate picture of how long vote counting will take, but the state party plans to announce the results and the winner sometime on caucus night.

As of Saturday, there are 135 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee and 248 days until the November general election.


Associated Press writer David A. Lieb in Jefferson City, Missouri, contributed to this report.