Trump wins Idaho GOP caucus with overwhelming support; many participants favor returning to primary

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Mar. 3—North Idaho Republican voters escaped the late-winter chill and trickled into a warm Coeur d'Alene hotel Saturday to help select the Republican presidential nominee.

The vast majority, like those statewide, appeared to support former President Donald Trump, though many wished they could have voted in a primary instead of participating in Saturday's caucus.

Trump overwhelmingly won the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus, collecting all 32 delegates, according to the Idaho Republican Party.

Voters, who had to be registered Idaho Republicans by the end of last year, turned out to 210 caucus locations across the state, including 25 in Kootenai County.

Trump was the favorite for voters who participated at the Best Western Plus Coeur d'Alene Inn. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie and Ryan Binkley were the other five candidates on the ballot.

At the Best Western, Trump garnered 342 votes, Haley received 35 votes, DeSantis received eight and Christie got one, according to Beverly Guenette, organizer at the Best Western caucus.

Donald Knapp, who wore a red "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" hat, said Trump stands for the right things and that the economy, inflation and gas prices were better under Trump's leadership.

"Everybody's life was better back then," Knapp said outside the hotel.

Media members were not allowed inside the caucus locations.

John Slivkoff, who had his small dog tucked under his jacket outside the hotel, said, "We need America back," and he preferred Trump to lead the way.

"All he wants to do is help out common people," Slivkoff said.

Idaho previously held its presidential primary election in March, but the state Legislature passed a new law last year that eliminated the election in order to save money and consolidate elections.

Officials said the intent was to move the presidential primary to the same day as other state primary elections in May, but the presidential primary was simply removed instead. The caucus took its place.

Marian McNamara said she and her husband Mike moved to Idaho because she felt their Republican votes never counted in Oregon where they lived.

Mike McNamara said he voted for Trump Saturday, but "not enthusiastically." He said he wished the Republican Party had a stronger candidate.

"I worry about the general election because of his volatility," Mike McNamara said.

Marian McNamara said she voted for Trump and likes almost all of his policies.

"A lot of people aren't thrilled with the personality features, but it's the policies that work," she said.

Mike McNamara said in a call after the event that he and his wife filled out their ballots and watched videos of various interest groups and candidates before leaving the hotel. They were there for 30 to 45 minutes, he said.

He said some of the voters hovered around and chatted while others voted and left.

Mike McNamara said he thinks Trump's personality might keep him from getting elected in November.

In the event of a Trump rematch against President Joe Biden, Marian McNamara said both candidates are old and personally unpopular, so the election would boil down to the issues.

"I think the policy issues have become so critical that Trump has a better chance of being elected in spite of himself," she said.

Mike McNamara said the Biden administration has been a "failure" and another four years with a Democratic president would be a "disaster" for the country.

Janet Hart said she came to the caucus to vote for Trump, who will "save our country," she said. Hart, a frequent poll worker, said she planned to tally votes at a Post Falls caucus location after she left the Best Western. Like many people at the hotel, it was Hart's first time participating at a caucus.

Some voters, like Hart, questioned the caucus format and hoped the presidential primary election returns in the future. Sally MacKenzie was another voter who preferred the primary.

"I want to vote and I like to think it's my duty," she said. "But the change in having the caucus was not a good idea. People are having to come out that really can't spare their time on Saturday."

MacKenzie, who was on her way inside the caucus, said she did not want criticize too much having never participated in a caucus


"I didn't think there was anything wrong with the other way of voting," Mike McNamara said.