BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Ron Paul hoped a speech to North Dakota Republican caucus goers in Fargo could bring him the first state victory of his presidential campaign Tuesday. Rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum waited to see whether their own North Dakota campaigning would pay dividends.
North Dakota Republicans prepared to visit one of 59 caucus sites Tuesday night to hear presentations about Romney, Paul, Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and to vote for one of them. All but Gingrich have campaigned in North Dakota.
Paul scheduled a trip to North Dakota Tuesday to speak at Fargo's caucuses in person. Republican activists in 10 of North Dakota's 47 legislative districts are meeting Tuesday night in a Fargo hotel ballroom.
Paul's staffers have long acknowledged he isn't likely to topple front-runners Romney and Santorum in direct voting setups such as primaries. But caucuses, which generally are meetings open to all registered party voters, tend to draw more dedicated voters, partly because the process is more drawn out. Decided voters attempt to court the undecided to back their candidate. And Paul supporters are famously dedicated.
Up to now, his best showings have come in Iowa and Maine — states that use caucuses.
The North Dakota caucuses, which are in about 60 locations, are opening at 5:30 p.m. local time and closing at 8 p.m. A handful of caucus locations are in the Mountain time zone in southwestern North Dakota, and will stay open an hour later than locations in the Central time zone.
North Dakota residents who will be at least 18 years old on Election Day, Nov. 6, may take part. Participants must have identification, such as a driver's license, to be eligible to vote in the caucuses, said Matt Becker, a state GOP spokesman.
Paul's Tuesday visit will be his second to North Dakota in three weeks. He campaigned in Williston, Dickinson, Bismarck and Jamestown over two days last month, drawing almost 3,000 people.
Mitt Romney made a brief stop in Fargo last week. Santorum spent a day campaigning in Fargo and Tioga, a community in northwestern North Dakota's bustling oil-producing region.
Meanwhile, supervisors of caucus sites were finishing up their preparations Monday.
In Bottineau, in north-central North Dakota near the Canadian border, Pamela Smith has 120 ballots ready, and a copy machine nearby at the public library in case more are needed. The library, which is inside the Bottineau County courthouse, is hosting the caucus.
Smith expects more participants than the 100 people who showed up at the Republican caucuses four years ago. Romney won that contest with 36 percent of the vote; Paul was third, with 21 percent.
"If it looks like we're running out of ballots, it shouldn't take too long to make some more," Smith said.