Santorum easily claimed victory here on “Super Tuesday,” winning all but 11 districts statewide –including the state’s largest cities: Bismarck, Devils Lake, Williston, Dickinson, Jamestown and Valley City and most of Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot.
With all 47 legislative districts reporting, Santorum took 39.7 percent of the statewide vote in complete but unofficial results.
Santorum swept the state, also winning districts in the Oil Patch and in most rural counties.
Paul won seven districts: five in Fargo, one in Grand Forks and a rural district north of Rugby, N.D.
Romney won four: a couple in Minot and one each in southern Grand Forks and Bismarck.
Gingrich didn’t win any districts. He was the only one of the four candidates not to visit North Dakota before the caucuses.
For Paul – who thought North Dakota would be the first state he’d win in the primary race – the results fell short of expectations.
Paul’s optimism heading into Super Tuesday was marked by his appearance Tuesday evening at the Fargo caucus.
The conservative principles of limited government and personal liberty dominated his address to enthusiastic caucus-goers.
“The government is designed to protect our liberties and nothing else,” Paul said to a roar of cheers, whistles and applause from hundreds gathered at the Ramada Plaza Suites.
Paul touched on the economy, foreign wars and federal spending – all while advocating for less power in the federal government.
“We need much more openness of government and much more protection of our privacy,” Paul said. “Those who accuse us of going backwards are going backwards toward tyranny and we don’t need to go in that direction.”
Paul took more than twice the amount of time to speak than supporters for Romney and Santorum, who were given only 10 minutes to lobby for their chosen candidate before Paul took the stage.
After Paul’s speech, North Dakota Republican Party Executive Director Anthony Reedy explained that they’d asked Paul to keep it short, but “we were hesitant to cut him off.”
“If any of the other presidential candidates had come here, we would’ve shown them the same respect,” Reedy said.
Audience members – the majority of whom passionately supported Paul – booed the Romney and Santorum speakers and drowned them out at times by talking over them.
The show of disrespect prompted Paul’s deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari to ask the crowd to “be polite” to the other speakers and let them have their say.
Some caucus-goers came from as far as Lisbon and Grand Forks to vote and hear Paul speak rather than vote in their home districts.
In caucusing for Santorum, Sharon Carlson heralded the candidate’s social conservatism.
“He’s pro-life and pro-liberty,” said Carlson, wife of North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson. “He’s a man of integrity and consistency.”
Casselton resident Kirk Rosin cast his caucus vote for Santorum, saying he was committed after the candidate’s visit to Fargo last month.
“I really felt his values and his positions matched what I felt was important,” Rosin said, referencing Santorum’s social conservatism.
Santorum drew packed crowds when he toured the Oil Patch and visited Fargo in mid-February.
Those campaign stops clearly resonated with Republicans here, North Dakota GOP Chairman Stan Stein said.
“His message played very well with North Dakotans, and that’s pretty evident,” Stein said.
North Dakota State University students Davin Loegering, Zechariah Andersen and Benjamin Bechtold were among the youth supporters out in force to vote for Paul in Fargo.
“A lot of his ideas seem radical, but it’s at a time when radical ideas are needed,” Loegering said.
Before the caucuses, North Dakota GOP officials were expecting a record turnout throughout the state, and they got it.
More than 11,300 Republicans participated in Tuesday’s caucus, smashing the 2008 attendance of 9,785 voters.
Stein said he was pleased with the participation and passion demonstrated by North Dakota’s Republicans on Tuesday.
The proportionality of Tuesday’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.”