North Dakota caucus address running behind schedule
FARGO – GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has arrived in Fargo and plans to address caucus-goers here after 6 p.m.
A crowd of several hundred people are gathering in the Ramada Plaza Suites’ Crystal Ballrooms in anticipation of the candidate’s speech tonight.
The North Dakota caucuses statewide began at 5:30 p.m. Voting lasts until 8 p.m.
Ten local districts in Fargo are caucusing here at the Ramada, where the state GOP has prepared 4,000 ballots for the expected crowds.
Since about 3 p.m., campaign staff and hotel crews were busily preparing the ballrooms to host tonight’s activities.
Nonetheless, Paul’s appearance is running at least a half-hour behind schedule.
He was originally slated to speak at about 5:30 p.m. at the start of the caucus.
Paul’s attendance here on Super Tuesday reflects his campaign’s belief that victory is in store for the GOP underdog.
“Congressman Paul has gotten a very positive response and enjoys great grassroots support in North Dakota,” Paul spokesman Gary Howard said via e-mail. “Our campaign feels that there is an opportunity to gain a good number of delegates in the state, and being in Fargo only seemed like the natural thing to do to bolster our support there on caucus day.”
In anticipation of large crowds in Fargo, the GOP has opened up two of the Ramada’s Crystal Ballrooms – spanning an estimated 10,000 square feet that can hold about 800-1,000 people.
Paul’s campaign has also set up several flat-screen TVs outside the ballroom to accommodate an overflow audience, if necessary.
North Dakota GOP Chairman Stan Stein said he expects a record turnout throughout the state tonight.
“With the good weather and extra interest this year, I’m thinking we could hit 12,000 (statewide),” Stein said.
The proportionality of tonight’s results will be decided at the state GOP convention later this month.
However, North Dakota’s caucus is non-binding, meaning the state’s 28 delegates at the national convention don’t have to vote in line with tonight’s results.
Stein said, though, the state’s delegates will be asked to “use this as a guideline for their voting.”