CODY, Wyoming (Reuters) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Wyoming Republican presidential caucus on Saturday, taking eight of the state’s 12 delegates and giving him a much-needed boost after his recent loss in Iowa.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee won three delegates and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California won one, according to Wyoming Republican party organizer Tom Sansonetti.
The victory gives Romney supporters something to tout as the focus of the U.S. presidential election shifts to Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Romney suffered a setback earlier this week in the Iowa caucuses where former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee soundly beat him.
Wyoming Democrats, who make up just over one-fourth of the state’s registered voters, will hold their caucus March 8.
In past election years, Wyoming has been largely ignored by many candidates because it has the lowest population of any U.S. state with roughly 520,000 residents, but this year state Republican leaders sought to attract attention by setting an early date for delegate voting.
The move ran afoul of the Republican National Committee, which penalized the state’s party by cutting in half the number of delegates it can have at the national convention.
But Sansonetti, who organized the change in caucus dates, said the decision has paid off with more attention on the state and more delegates showing up to campaign.
“Wyoming is getting a chance to elect the first delegates in the United States,” he said, noting that Iowa actually chooses its national convention delegates in April, not with last week’s caucuses.
Some candidates, including Thompson and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, made brief appearances in Wyoming this past year, with Hunter being the last to visit in early December.
Romney visited the state twice and opened a campaign office. Sansonetti said no top candidate had come to Wyoming during previous presidential primaries.
Some of the state’s 1,200 caucus voters said they had been called by candidates, a rarity in Wyoming presidential politics.
Retired engineer Glen Schultz of Park County said he was leaving home for the caucus when he took a phone call from Hunter. He said he also had been called earlier by Josh Romney, Mitt Romney’s son.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara