Adair County’s Republican caucus Saturday mirrored a nationwide trend — with primary season halfway completed there is no clear preference for a presidential nominee.
The majority of the delegates Adair County Republicans elected to help select Missouri’s vote for the Republican presidential nominee declared themselves uncommitted to a candidate.
Two sets of nine delegates were selected to help choose the state’s national convention delegates and presidential preference at two more rounds of conventions.
One set will attend the congressional district convention April 21, and the other set will attend the state convention June 2.
Six of the nine state convention delegates did not declare support for a candidate with the remaining three in a one-two split between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
At the congressional convention level, seven of the nine delegates were uncommitted with the remaining two supporting Gingrich and Santorum.
“I think [being uncommitted] is valid,” said Randy Hagerty, political science department chair and a state convention delegate who supports Newt Gingrich. “If you look at how the Republican presidential race has unfolded this year, Romney despite his best efforts, is not liked or trusted by the conservative base of the party even though he’s been running for president for five years.”
The newly elected delegates can watch the race unfold for several more weeks before choosing a nominee — until the congressional convention April 21 or the state convention June 2 — because Missouri’s caucus rules do not require county-level delegates to declare a candidate as part of the selection process, Hagerty said.
For example, if one candidate’s campaign is dead by the June 2 convention, delegates are free to support a surviving contender.
Hagerty said he told the caucus-goers, “I’m primarily for Gingrich but once I get to the convention if it looks like his race is going to implode, you should all be aware that I’d vote for Santorum instead.”
Zachary Wyatt, Adair County’s representative in the Missouri House, is a member of the uncommitted majority of delegates. Wyatt said as a public official, he based his vote on his district preferences, not his personal preference.
Wyatt said he will gather constituent input through conversations, possible town hall meetings and the Feb. 7 non-binding primary results, in which less than half of Adair County’s 800 voters supported Santorum, according to a Feb. 9 Index article.
Primary results are the indicator delegate James Tucker said he used in expressing his preference for a nominee, especially because 10 times the number of voters turned out to the primary as the caucus.
“Ultimately, it’s the voice of the people that you should honor [as a delegate], and the people chose Senator Santorum,” said Tucker, a veteran and first-year A.T. Still University student.
Tucker said he personally supports Santorum more than the other candidates.
The Adair County caucus also reflected a statewide trend of a clear divide between traditional base Republicans and Ron Paul supporters, Hagerty said. However, no Paul supporter managed to gather enough votes to land on either convention slate, he said.
In addition to selecting delegates, the caucus’ was also to approve a draft of the Missouri Republican party platform, which passed.