Early voting begins Saturday for primary

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Fletcher offers open jobs fair March 28
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Local dietician admits health is a matter of choices
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Early voting opens Saturday for Louisiana’s March 24 primary, with the big ticket item on the ballot the contest for the Republican nominee for president.

Though the fight is fierce in the GOP around the country, Louisiana has received little attention from candidates. No campaign ads have aired, and the mailers, bumper stickers and yard signs are largely missing from the state so far.

“I have seen one Gingrich 2012 sign in my neighborhood, and I think the person took it down, and that’s the extent of it,” said Kirby Goidel, an LSU political science professor.

Republican Party of Louisiana executive director Jason Dore said the campaigns have focused on grassroots organizing in the state, as they stump in places with elections sooner than Louisiana’s primary.

“I think we’ll be like what’s happened in other states. As soon as it gets to our turn, they decide to pay attention and dump a bunch of money in our state. It’s going to be a last-minute thing,” Dore said.

Though President Barack Obama has sealed up the national Democratic nomination, three opponents have signed up for Louisiana’s Democratic primary on March 24.

But the focus is squarely on the Republican competition.

Early voting hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the local registrar of voters office in each parish and certain other designated spots. The ability to cast ballots before election day continues until March 17. Early voting is closed Sunday.

Louisiana’s GOP primary won’t determine how all of the state’s 46 delegates will be divvied up among candidates at the national convention – and might not determine any of its delegates’ assignments.

Twenty delegates are awarded proportionally to the candidate receiving at least 25 percent of the statewide vote in the primary. If no candidate reaches that 25 percent, the 20 delegates are uncommitted.

The state’s Republican voters are staunchly conservative and are expected to favor former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the primary over front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

Four years ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won Louisiana’s GOP primary, getting 43 percent of the vote, narrowly edging eventual nominee John McCain, who received 42 percent.

“I would think Louisiana voters would gravitate toward Gingrich as a fellow Southerner and conservative and toward Santorum as a conservative, and not in the Romney camp, except only in the reluctant sense,” Goidel said.

Edward Chervenak, a political science professor and director of the survey research center at the University of New Orleans, agreed.

“Louisiana Republicans will be more likely to support Rick Santorum because his social conservatism plays well in a Bible-belt state like Louisiana,” Chervenak said.

“Also, given that Obama is very unpopular in the state, Santorum will attempt to portray Mitt Romney as Obama-lite, especially as it relates to the health care law. Santorum’s position is that he’s the candidate that can draw a bright line between himself and the president. That line of reasoning is bound to make him more appealing to Louisiana Republicans,” he said.

Dore said he’s seen no recent polling in Louisiana, but he said Republican support in the state seems to be fluctuating to match the national battle over the nomination.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal endorsed his friend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. When Perry dropped out, Jindal said he’ll wait until the GOP field is culled and simply endorse whoever is the eventual nominee.

The state’s three RNC delegates haven’t endorsed a candidate.

The March 24 ballot also includes several local races, including judicial competitions, police jury seats, mayoral races and tax proposals in different parishes. Seats on the Republican and Democratic parties’ central governing bodies and parish executive committees are up for grabs as well.