We’ve been trying to get a handle today on just what’s been going on up in Washington state, and I just got off the phone with a spokesman for the Washington Republican Party. Here, at least, is his explanation of what happened on Saturday.
The process as he described it was this: Washington Republicans showed up at their precinct caucuses on Saturday. Each caucus-goer indicated their presidential preference on a sign-in sheet at the door. Then each caucus elected precinct delegates from among those in attendance at the caucus. Each precinct then reported the presidential choice of its elected delegates as indicated on their sign-in sheets. The precincts report up to their respective counties and the counties in turn report to the state GOP.
So why did the state GOP Chair Luke Esser decide to pack it in early on Saturday night? It’s a relatively chaotic process, the spokesman said, which was made more chaotic by their first try at same-day reporting. He stressed that the process was “all voluntary.” The last results came in around 10 PM. And that was it; the tendency was natural to fold up early, he said. “People want to be fresh for the next day.”
So why did Esser call the race with 13% of the delegates still outstanding? “He was giving his analysis,” the spokesman said. “He said it appears John McCain has won. This wasn’t a certainty.” (The party’s press release, titled “Sen. McCain Wins Republican Precinct Caucuses in Washington State,” bore no such ambiguity.) People who had participated in the caucuses had naturally “expected to hear results and hear analysis of what they had spent the whole day doing,” he explained.
Esser’s pronouncement had nothing to do with any favoritism for McCain, he said. That’s “misinformation.” He would have done the same for any other candidate.
The remaining results, he said, are slow going. They probably won’t get to 100% today. The state gets results from the county, but some of the precincts are apparently tardy in reporting to the counties. The spokesman said that was as expected. “People went off to work on Monday. People had services on Sunday.”
A whole separate issue is the uncertain correlation of Saturday’s caucus results with the delegates that the Washington GOP will ultimately send to the convention. The spokesman compared Saturday’s results to a “flash poll” that’s just a step on the way to the GOP selecting the state’s 18 delegates for the convention. And he stressed that they were “at-will” delegates who could change their choice for president at any time.
A Washington blogger who attended the GOP caucuses writes that presidential preference never “came up” in selecting their delegates. The post, titled “What The Washington GOP Precinct Caucus Results Mean,” begins, “Nothing.”