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Missouri caucuses marked by contention, with no clear victor yet

By Dave Helling, McClatchy Newspapers  –

LIBERTY, Mo. — Missouri Republicans met in more than 100 counties Saturday to begin picking their presidential nominee at party caucuses marked in some places by crowded rooms, loud disagreements — and no clear victor.

In Clay County, arguments between Ron Paul supporters and others became so intense that the caucus chairman threatened to have voters removed by force. Backers of the Texas congressman said they were upset their views weren’t being heard. “We’re just a little frustrated because caucuses are supposed to be run by a very strict set of rules,” said Paul supporter John Findlay, who lost his bid to become caucus chairman. “We raised a number of points of order, points of information, points of parliamentary inquiry, many of which have been ignored.”

But county caucus chairman Ben Wierzbicki said all caucus-goers had been treated fairly.

“Certain people have made it very difficult on most of the people who are involved in this caucus,” he said. “It might be a little crazy, but that’s part of it.”

After a three-hour-plus session, Clay County caucus-goers eventually elected delegate slates from both the 5th and 6th congressional districts whose members were officially uncommitted to any specific presidential candidate. Attendees also firmly rejected an effort to more closely align the party platform with Paul’s views.

Unlike neighboring Kansas, which caucused March 10, Missouri Republicans did not cast direct ballots for any presidential candidate Saturday. Instead, delegates picked Saturday will eventually choose 49 of the state’s 52 national GOP convention delegates at district conventions in April and the state convention in June.

Not every county held a caucus Saturday: Republicans in Jackson County and St. Louis city postponed their caucuses until March 24 because of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Because of the confusing process, no presidential candidate is expected to get an immediate political boost from Saturday’s caucuses.

Missouri Democrats will hold their caucuses later this spring. Delegates will be bound by the results of the February primary, which President Barack Obama won easily.

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