Republican caucus-goers in Missouri get down to business Saturday when they meet to award the state's delegates.
Most caucuses are on St. Patrick's Day, but several were changed either before or after Saturday to try to maximize participation, state Republican officials said. Caucuses in the city of St. Louis, for example, meet March 24.
Now, after participating in a meaningless primary, Missouri Republicans may not know how the candidates actually fare for several weeks to come, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Missouri Republican Party leaders gave organizers as long as three days to submit names of delegates selected at the 142 local caucuses -- and even then the names of which candidate the delegates pledged to support may not be included. In fact, selected delegates may not declare support for anyone.
So the winner of Missouri's 52 electoral votes for the GOP presidential nomination will not be known until a round of meetings in April, weeks after most of the county-level caucuses are conducted.
"There's not going to be a quote 'winner' at 6 p.m. on March 17," said Lloyd Smith, the state Republican Party executive director.
After 2008 election cycle, national Republican leaders were concerned about a front-loaded primary calendar. They passed a measure meant to discourage all but a few states from holding a primary election before Super Tuesday, which this year was March 6. States -- and there were several -- that thumbed their noses at the rule lost delegates to the national convention in Tampa, Fla.
To comply with the national rules, Missouri's GOP-controlled Legislature approved a bill that pushed back the Feb. 7 primary, which was vetoed by the governor. When the effort to push back the election failed, the state's Republican Party declared the primary vote non-binding and tied the nominating process to local caucuses.
Unlike previous years, Missouri delegates don't have to reveal their candidate commitments until April 21, when those selected at county caucuses meet with other delegates in the same congressional district, basically repeating the caucus process to pick 24 delegates for the national convention. In June, delegates selected at local caucus will meet at a state convention in Springfield and select 25 more delegates to the convention. The party will also send three at-large delegates.
State Republican officials are working with state and national media to ensure everyone knows there won't be any results available on the day most Missouri Republicans caucus, the Post-Dispatch said.
"It is very organized in the sense that the guidelines are in place," Smith said. "But it is unique to Missouri and it does not necessarily mirror any other state's way of handling caucuses."