CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The nation's presidential delegate selection process begins this week in Wyoming, where Republicans are choosing several people to attend county conventions next month where the national delegates will be chosen.
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Volunteers for Republican candidates say they are working the phones to get their supporters to turn out at the GOP precinct caucuses, which began Tuesday and wrap up Dec. 20.
State Auditor Rita Meyer, a Mitt Romney supporter, said she's had to rely more on persuasion than her status when speaking with people who are undecided.
"I'm no Oprah, and I know it," she said, referring to the celebrity's endorsement of Democrat Barack Obama.
First — at a price
At the precinct caucuses, about a quarter of the delegates will be chosen for the GOP's county conventions Jan. 5. From there, 12 national delegates will be selected.
Wyoming Republicans voted in August to boost their profile by becoming the first state to select national delegates. Although the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses will be earlier, the state will not choose its delegates until much later.
Wyoming has paid a price for being early. The Republican National Committee is withholding half of its 28 delegates from the national convention.
Wyoming, however, can decide which delegates are withheld. As a result, all the delegates chosen at the county conventions will get to attend.
On Tuesday, 77 precincts in three Wyoming counties — Natrona, Sublette and Albany — were holding their caucuses. The rest will be held over the next several days.
Three-quarters of the delegates to the county conventions have already been chosen. They are precinct committee members: one man and one woman from each of the state's 487 precincts. But the other 250 or so county convention delegates are up for grabs.
Those county convention delegates are apportioned according to Republican voters in the last congressional election, meaning that more heavily Republican precincts get more delegates to their county convention in addition to their precinct committeeman and committeewoman.
Former state party chair Drake Hill said he's been reaching out to Wyoming Republicans, but was unsure how many would support his favorite candidate, Fred Thompson.
"Wyoming precinct committeemen and women are of an independent nature. They're not just going to accept anyone's word on the qualifications of a presidential candidate," Hill said. "What we can do is provide them information on the candidates' views and information on our candidate's views on particular topics."
Tom Sansonetti, the party's county convention organizer, said the purpose of the precinct events is to begin the process as locally as possible.
"Just as the national convention is fed by delegates selected at the state convention, and the state convention is fed by delegates selected at the county conventions on January 5, so too are the county conventions consequently fed by the precinct caucuses," Sansonetti said.
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