BOISE — With 9,050 voters, over a hundred volunteers, a live band, and endless concession stands selling popcorn, Ada County’s inaugural caucus felt a lot like a carnival. The crowd would spontaneously erupt in “Ron Paul” and “Mitt, Mitt, Mitt” chants or break out The Wave. The applause was deafening and the chorus of voices singing the National Anthem was beautiful. Little kids danced by the stage and attendees chatted with their favorite local politicians and radio personalities.
Though not everyone was happy with Mitt Romney’s 51.79% win, no one complained about the enthusiasm and camaraderie that filled the Taco Bell Arena. Below are a few photo that captured of the energy in America’s largest caucus thus far:
These girls decked themselves in patriotic gear in preparation for their first caucus.
Tiny tots carry a paper Ron Paul banner.
The live band played various oldies, like “Margaritaville,” originally sung by Jimmy Buffett, a Democrat.
Six tables of candidate merchandise were set up by the stage, handing out stickers, posters, and leaflets to a lined up crowd. Ron Paul’s had three whole tables devoted to swag and decorated with bunches of balloons. The volunteers working the Rick Santorum boasted that they had run out of placards while other campaigns were still well-stocked.
A volunteer working the Mitt Romney merchandise booth got creative with stickers.
Newt Gingrich’s campaign had by far the smallest showing and a largely ignored merchandise booth. The volunteers did hand out information postcards in Spanish.
By the end of the night, Newt Gingrich has only won 307 votes in a crowd of thousands. The only visible Gingrich supporter had a homemade sign. She was frustrated by what she perceived as Rick Santorum taking credit for the Speaker’s accomplishments. She called Santorum’s use of a prerecorded video as a stump speech “slick.”
A woman with a Ron Paul photo hung on her chest wandered around the floor, handing out silver Hershey Kisses to attendees. It’s to remind people of the real gold and silver standard, she joked.
Salvador, who did not give his last name, is a Hispanic veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam war. Though Ron Paul has strong support in the military community, Salvador was here for Mitt Romney. He said Paul was too “isolationist” and he wanted a candidate strong on national defense and illegal immigration.
Governor Butch Otter and his wife, Laurie Otter, were dressed to the nines at the caucus. The Governor was very excited about the turnout and gave a stump speech in favor of Mitt Romney on the stage. The First Lady led the stadium in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Boy Scouts Ty Capener and Justice Read (from left) were at the caucus to conduct the flag salute. They were also young Mitt Romney supporters, impressed by his handling of the Winter Olympics.
Voters started to line up for the first round at their randomized polling booths after 8 p.m.
The voters were handed brand new Lincoln pennies as tokens to use in the vote. The caucus ended when Mitt Romney won $46.89 worth of the vote in the first round.
After receiving her penny token, a voter’s wristband is checked by a pollster to make sure she’s at the correct booth.
After entering the polling booth, voters dropped their tokens into their chosen candidate bucket. Upon exiting the booth, attendees received a blue mark on their hands to signify completion of the first round. After voting was complete, volunteers collected the tins and counted the pennies inside.
Ada County Chairman Dwight Johnson was very pleased with event as a whole and impressed with the voters’ enthusiasm. He resolved to review all procedures and make the caucus even better four years from now.
(Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by Ilona Idlis/UW Election Eye)