Topeka — Kansas has attracted a larger-than-expected field of candidates for the presidential caucuses in March, and Republican leaders hoped Thursday that the race remains competitive enough to draw some of the hopefuls — and national attention — to the state.
The state GOP scheduled the caucuses for March 10, the Saturday after Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in 11 other states. Kansas officials said the National Republican Party's rules, which discourage states with contests before April from awarding delegates on a winner-takes-all basis, should help prevent the party's nomination from being settled.
Results from Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses Tuesday also gave them some hope that the race would remain competitive. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney maintained his status as the leading national candidate, but he was only a handful of votes ahead of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul also had a strong showing.
Eight candidates met the Dec. 31 filing deadline for the Kansas caucuses. Kansas GOP officials said they would have been pleased with four or five candidates on the ballot. Kansas will have 40 delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.
"I'm still convinced that it could be very competitive," said Randy Duncan, GOP chairman for the 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas. "Will Kansas make a difference? I would say yes. Will Kansas stand out? I would say yes."
The campaigns for Romney, Santorum and Paul all paid the $10,000 necessary for them to get on the ballot in the Kansas caucuses. So, too, did the campaigns of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Perry received an early endorsement from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who campaigned for him in Iowa.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain also filed, but they have suspended their campaigns. The Kansas GOP's rules committee has not decided whether their names will remain on the ballot.
Kansas GOP Chairwoman Amanda Adkins noted that ahead of the Kansas caucuses, only about 40 percent of the 2,286 delegates to the Republican National Convention will have been allocated.
"The GOP delegate count will build very slowly," she said. "I think we are well-positioned in the schedule. We have a decent number of delegates, and so the interest should be there on the part of the presidential candidates to come to our state."
The candidate with the most votes statewide in Kansas will pick up three delegates — party officials who go to the convention automatically. The top vote-getter in each of the state's four congressional districts will receive three delegates. The remaining 25 delegates will be allocated among the candidates proportionally.
The caucuses are scheduled for 99 sites in 93 of the state's 105 counties.