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Romney sews up victory in Republican state caucus

Mar 11, 2012 - By Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Republican front-runner Mitt Romney won the presidential delegate vote in caucusing at Wyoming's county conventions Saturday, picking up seven of 12 delegates after local party meetings that also delivered at least two delegates to Rick Santorum.

The gas-drilling hotspot of Sublette County and Lincoln County, both in western Wyoming, voted to give their national delegates to Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. That brought Romney's total over three days of caucusing to seven.

"A lot of people said they felt that Romney was better qualified because he's obviously a financial genius, he understands the economic situation in America right now," said Bob Rule, a Republican state committeeman from Pinedale in Sublette County.

"To my surprise, it was not the Mormons flocking out here to vote."

Santorum won two delegates Saturday and a third was being contested by Romney's campaign in Park County. Texas Rep. Ron Paul won one earlier this week, while a delegate chosen in Niobrara County was uncommitted.

Park County held three close votes before going for Santorum on Saturday. The first vote produced a split among two Romney supporters and one Santorum supporter, prompting one Romney backer to drop out for the second vote.

Romney won that vote 28-26, but a dispute over the ballots prompted a final vote that went to Santorum, 29-27.

The state Republican Party later said that result was contested and not final. It would not be resolved Saturday, said state party chair Tammy Hooper.

Sheila Leach of Cody, the Santorum delegate in Park County, speculated she got a couple of votes from Paul supporters.

"I like Rick Santorum because he has a resiliency about him. He has a great deal of moral courage," said Leach, a native of Scotland.

Wyoming will send 29 delegates this year to the Republican National Convention -- more than such larger states as Connecticut, Oregon and Nevada. Under Republican National Committee rules, Wyoming gets additional delegates for having a Republican governor, Republican congressional delegation and Republican majorities in its state Legislature.

Even so, the state has attracted hardly any attention. No candidate did much campaigning or ran much advertising here.

The two RNC members from Wyoming and the state chairwoman, Hooper, are automatic national delegates.

Already, the presidential campaigns were asking for the names and phone numbers of delegates to the state convention to lobby for their votes, said Hooper.

"A lot of these people, this might be the only time in their life they're contacted by a presidential campaign," Hooper said.

On Super Tuesday, Romney won Big Horn, Laramie, Natrona and Washakie counties, while Paul won Weston County.

Romney picked up eight of 12 delegates at stake in the Wyoming caucuses four years ago. The Cowboy State didn't turn out to be a very good bellwether: Arizona Sen. John McCain, the eventual nominee, got just one delegate.

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