Romney takes early lead in Washington Republican caucus

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Turnout was heavy at the Washington state Republican caucuses on Saturday as Mitt Romney took an early lead in the non-binding straw poll he hopes will propel his campaign to a strong showing on Super Tuesday.
Kirby Wilbur, chairman of the state Republican Party, said voter turnout would probably exceed early estimates of 50,000, versus about 13,800 in 2008.
With less than 4,000 votes counted from lightly populated counties in rural eastern Washington, Romney was ahead with 31.5 percent of the vote to Texas Congressman Ron Paul's 26.9 percent and former US Senator Rick Santorum's 24.4 percent, according to figures released by Wilbur. Republicans are seeking a nominee to challenge President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 election.
Washington usually holds both a caucus and a primary to allocate its delegates, but the state government this year canceled the primary to save money.
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