- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Republicans in Wyoming get their first say in the presidential race Saturday, ahead of primaries next week that could decide whether Donald Trump locks up the nomination or knuckles down for a fight to the GOP national convention.

The state GOP’s county conventions will decide 12 of Wyoming’s 29 national delegates. Those delegates likely will be spread among multiple candidates, though the candidate with the largest share of the dozen will be able to claim he has the momentum.

Delegates could get behind Trump - shoring up his support in the Rocky Mountain region after he lost by an almost 2-to-1 margin in Idaho on Tuesday - or side with one of his opponents just before primaries in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio.

What happens in Wyoming and those states will shape the rest of the race. Marco Rubio could remain a contender with a surprise win in his home state of Florida. Ted Cruz could force a prolonged one-on-one fight with Trump with a couple wins. John Kasich could revive his campaign by winning his home state, Ohio.

Or Trump could prove unstoppable, running off with victories that give him a majority of delegates and avoid the need for a contested national convention.



The upcoming states will be paying close attention to Wyoming this weekend, state GOP Chairman Matt Micheli said Thursday.

“March 15 is the critical day of the election. This is Wyoming’s chance to have its voice heard, really, before the election is decided,” Micheli said.

Wyoming’s county conventions aren’t open to just anybody. The participants were chosen at crowded GOP precinct caucuses held in every county in February and early March.

That energy in those caucuses should carry forward into the county conventions, said Micheli.

“People are really engaged and really excited,” he said. “It’s a fun time to be part of the Republican Party.”

Many in Wyoming are disillusioned with President Barack Obama’s policies. Market forces have caused a downturn in the state’s fossil-fuel-extraction economy. Republicans also blame federal regulation for impeding the oil, gas and coal industries.

So far, Cruz is the only remaining candidate to campaign here. He appeals to social conservatives deeply suspicious of any powerful federal role in the state.

Trump’s business experience and frank nature speak to Wyoming’s frontier values of self-sufficiency and independence. Kasich and Rubio are much more like Wyoming’s mainstream conservative Republican politicians than Cruz or Trump.

Wyoming has an unusually large share of GOP national delegates for its size because the state is so heavily Republican. Wyoming picks up bonus delegates under national Republican rules for having a Republican governor and Republican majorities in the Legislature, for example.

Republicans will choose another 14 delegates at their state convention in Casper in mid-April. The other three are the state GOP chairman, national committeeman and national committeewoman.

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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