NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana Republicans split over John McCain, the winner of state caucuses, and Mike Huckabee, who narrowly won the state primary. This weekend the rivals will have another chance to snare delegates to the national convention.
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Some have complained that the relatively new selection system for the state GOP is confusing. Huckabee, in an interview Tuesday with The Times-Picayune, told the newspaper the system was "goofy."
Republicans at caucuses around the state cast ballots Jan. 22 for delegates and alternates to the Louisiana Republican Convention. McCain won the caucuses, and the state party chairman, Roger Villere, said he believes the majority of delegates to the national convention will support McCain.
The state primary last Saturday would have pledged 20 at-large national delegates had a candidate received at least 50 percent of the ballots cast. With Huckabee winning with 43 percent and McCain right behind with 42 percent, no at-large delegates were awarded.
Complex selection process
Instead, those sent to the state convention by caucus-goers will help decide how 44 of the state's 47 national convention delegates are split among the candidates. Three party officials were automatic delegates to the national convention; Villere, who's among those, said all three are McCain supporters.
"You don't know until the convention who is elected as delegates," said Villere, a flower shop operator.
Villere sent McCain's campaign a letter following the caucuses saying he expected McCain to win most of Louisiana's GOP delegates. The letter was dated Feb. 1, more than a week before the Feb. 9 primary.
Villere, busy at work with Valentine's Day approaching, said he could not remember committing a specific number of delegates. In his letter, provided by the McCain campaign, he told McCain he would have 41 of the 47 delegates going to Minneapolis if no one else got 50 percent of the primary vote.
Jay Connaughton, a McCain supporter who will vie Saturday for selection to the national convention, said the presidential nominating process is complex "no matter where you go."
Huckabee's campaign did not return messages for comment Tuesday. McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said, "We're just playing the hand that we're dealt."
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