Precinct 113, the west-side home for hundreds of El Paso County Republicans, met Tuesday night for its portion of the state GOP caucus. They packed into a trig classroom at Palmer High School, standing room only — thanks to the redrawing of district lines, which squished two and a half precincts into one.
This is a unique precinct, judging by the final tally from the party's non-binding straw poll presidential vote: It had a pretty strong showing for Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Statewide, of course, Rick Santorum scored the big win, with Mitt Romney a pretty close second. Bringing up third was Newt Gingrich, and coming in in a far-away fourth was Paul. These were the results for El Paso County, as well. In 113, however, while Santorum still came in first, it wasn't Romney but Paul who brought in second place. Of the 35 votes, Santorum took 19, Paul took 10, and Romney got 2.
As one Paulite told the packed room of Republicans, he isn't a Republican, and has no interest in voting for a D.C. insider like Gingrich or an opportunist like Santorum. Another, when pressed by a Gingrich backer, even said that if he can't vote for Paul, he'd vote for Obama.
"I'm not a Republican," the 20-something said. "I switched parties to vote for Paul, because I vote for the person."
These 10 people are the fabled caucus-goers that the Paul campaign is banking on — the die-hard supporters who will suffer the caucus meetings to get their candidate elected. But while it's all well and good to get out there and participate in a near-meaningless straw poll, what the Paul supporters didn't do, at least in Precinct 113, was stick around.
Once their candidate lost, most of them just got up and left — leaving the considerably more valuable votes for precinct leaders and delegates to the county assembly to people like El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark's husband, Welling, who understand how politics works.
Next time, these outsiders might want to participate in the actual event.