Dems see big caucus turnout; GOP hurt by lack of poll | SteamboatToday.com

Dems see big caucus turnout; GOP hurt by lack of poll

Republicans hurt by lack of poll, local party official says

Jim Patterson

Routt County Democrats gather at Soda Creek Elementary School for Tuesday's precinct caucus.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Sen. Bernie Sanders victory in the state of Minnesota.

With Super Tuesday 2016 now a part of history, local leaders of both major political parties are saying precinct caucuses went smoothly and turnout in Routt County was comparable to, or even better than, previous presidential election years.

Catherine Carson, chair of Routt County Democrats, said the county's four caucus locations drew 644 registered Democrats, as well as approximately 30 guests, on Tuesday, and local Democrats — mirroring Democrats across the state of Colorado — delivered Sen. Bernie Sanders one of his three Super Tuesday wins.

Sanders also picked up wins Tuesday in Oklahoma, Vermont and Minnesota.

Colorado Democrats overwhelmingly favored Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with the Vermont senator garnering 58.9 percent of the vote to Clinton's 40.4 percent. This proportion handed Sanders 38 of Colorado's 66 total Democratic delegates, leaving Clinton with 28.

In Routt County, Sanders' advantage was even greater, with the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist drawing 406 votes, or 64 percent, to Clinton's 230 votes, or 36 percent.

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This, according to Carson, translated to 62 Routt County delegates for Sanders, 37 for Clinton and one uncommitted.

Saying she wasn't surprised by Sanders' success in Colorado and Routt County, Carson credited the senator's win here to the enthusiastic and determined work of his supporters, both here and across the state.

“The Team Bernie effort had a huge grassroots operations, so I wasn't at all surprised by the results." Carson said. "Statewide, they knocked on 43,000 doors and made more than 80,000 phone calls."

Regardless of the final outcome, Carson said Colorado Democrats will unite behind whichever Democratic candidate secures the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in July.

"I think they (Clinton and Sanders) are both great candidates, and I know they're both going to work for the best choices for our country," she said. "

Overall, Carson said Tuesday's precinct caucus was an tremendous success, and she credited much of that to the organizers, volunteers and particularly, a group of about 30 Soda Creek fifth graders who volunteered though their school organization, Soda Creek Leadership, to assist with the caucus.

"Those kids were amazing, and we couldn't have done it without them," Carson said. "I am 100-percent confident we're going to be voting for some — if not all — of those kids someday."

She also commended Jay Fetcher, who spoke on behalf of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Hannah O'Neill, who spoke on behalf of Sanders, and Dylan Roberts, who spoke on behalf of Clinton

The biggest news on the Republican side of Super Tuesday in Colorado was that state Republicans held no presidential preference poll, and according to Routt County Republican committee member and former chair Chuck McConnell, this change appears to have hurt Republican turnout.

McConnell said just under 200 registered Republicans across the county attended Tuesday's caucus, and while he said this number is comparable to the turnout in 2012, he added that the poll's absence definitely had a chilling effect caucus attendance.

"I've been hearing from people across the county, and even across the state, and they're all saying that not having a poll really, really hurt us," McConnell said. "The feedback on that was as universal as anything I've ever seen."

He said he fielded a number of telephone calls in the days leading up to Tuesday from Republican voters who had learned of the state Republican Party's August 2015 decision to drop the poll.

"Once I told them, 'yes,' (there would be no poll this year), I could hear the interest in attending go down," he said.

Even so, McConnell said, Routt County Republicans remain excited about their party's top-tier candidates.

"I've heard very positive, strong preferencial comments about the top three candidates," he said. "But I did not hear consensus (for any single candidate)."

In the absence of the preferential poll, Colorado's eventual 37 Republican delegates to the national convention will be uncommitted to any specific candidate, which could make Colorado a key swing state if no one candidate secures the GOP nomination by July 18 — the start date of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

"The caucus went very smoothly, except for the fact that … people weren’t given the opportunity to voice their preference for president," McConnell said.

To reach Jim Patterson, call 970-871-4208, email jpatterson@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JimPatterson15