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

FILE - The Idaho state flag hangs in the State Capitol in Boise, Idaho, Jan. 9, 2023. Idaho Republicans will gather in presidential caucuses Saturday, March 2, 2024, to help pick their party's presidential standard-bearer. Former president Donald Trump and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley will compete for the state's 32 Republican delegates, as will Texas businessman and pastor Ryan Binkley. (AP Photo/Kyle Green, File) (Kyle Green, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – When life cancels your primary, have a caucus.

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

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State legislators originally hoped to save money by consolidating the March 12 presidential primary with their May 21 primary for state and local offices. But after passing legislation last year canceling the March primary, the lawmakers neglected to take the additional step of moving the event to the May date, in effect canceling the presidential contest entirely — seemingly inadvertently.

The state parties instead will hold presidential caucuses this year: 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 is looking to score her first victory against Trump, but, given the pattern of voting in previous contests this year, she is unlikely to find it in Idaho.

In their previous matchups, Haley generally performed best among voters in areas that tend to support Democrats in elections, while Trump generally did best in areas that traditionally favor Republicans. Trump placed a distant second in the 2016 Idaho primary behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but Trump's loss in the state eight years ago against a very conservative candidate doesn’t reveal any obvious paths to victory for Haley this year.

The Republican caucuses will largely resemble the first-in-the-nation caucuses that Iowa Republican staged in January. Voters across the state will meet in their designated caucus sites and will hear short pitches on behalf of the various candidates. Then they will vote by secret ballot, with the results tabulated at each caucus site. Vote totals from all caucus sites will be added up and the results used to determine how many delegates each candidate has won.

The last time Idaho Republicans held presidential caucuses was in 2012, when Mitt Romney, now a Utah senator, 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 convene at 3:30 p.m. EST, which 1:30 p.m. MST and 12:30 p.m. PST. Idaho is in both the Mountain and Pacific time zones. Participants may check in as early as 2:00 p.m. EST, which is 12:00 p.m. MST and 11:00 a.m. PST. There is no set end time for the caucuses.


The caucuses are the only contest on the ballot. In addition to 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 may participate in the caucuses. The deadline to register was Dec. 31.


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


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


As of Feb. 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, roughly one-fifth of all registered Republicans at that time.

The state party’s caucus rules have no provision for early or absentee voting.


There isn’t a recent presidential caucus to provide an accurate sense of how long vote-counting will take, but the state party plans to announce the results and the winner at some point on caucus night.


As of Saturday, there will be 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.

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