Washington state holds its caucus on Saturday, and it will mark the last chance for a candidate to claim a victory heading into Super Tuesday on March 6.
Washington is proceeding with its voting contests differently this year. In 2008 Washington split presidential voting contests and awarded half of its delegates through a caucus and half through a primary. This year, Washington canceled its primary altogether as part of its budget cuts, opting to hold only a caucus, which will be run by the state Republican party rather than the state government.
In Washington, voters do not register by state party, so the caucus is open to all registered voters. In 2008, turnout was relatively strong for the primary - 529,932 votes were cast, 11 percent of the eligible voting population.
Mitt Romney received roughly 16 percent of the vote in the primary in 2008. He placed third, behind John McCain and Mike Huckabee, who placed first and second. This year, Romney and Santorum have both polled well in the state.
There are 43 delegates at stake in Washington's primary, and they will be doled out proportionally. While that is a higher number of delegates than in Michigan and Arizona (both of those states were penalized by the Republican National committee over moving their primary dates, and thus lost half their delegates), the caucus has not received the same amount of attention from the media and the GOP candidates.
There are two main reasons for this; Washington is considered to be a solidly blue state. The Republican candidate who claims victory here will not be able to use that as a trump card the way he could a swing state like Michigan or Ohio, or even a red state like Georgia or Oklahoma (both of which will vote on Super Tuesday.)
The other, more dominant reason lies in the scheduling. With Super Tuesday taking place just three days after the Washington caucus, candidates are focused on the more competitive Super Tuesday states: Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
There is, however, a plus side to the scheduling of the Washington caucus. As the final contest before Super Tuesday, it is the last chance for a candidate to build steam to carry him into the 10-state voting contest on March 6. And while it is unlikely that a victory in Washington would give the winner enough momentum to shake things up across the board, with races being so close in key states like Ohio, any small boost is something.