Next Primaries Scheduled For February 29th

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - With Michigan and Arizona behind them, the Republicans now will focus on upcoming primaries on February 29th in Virginia, North Dakota and Washington state. The Democrats also will hold a primary in Washington state on that date.

Texas Governor George W Bush has his eye on the Republican primary in Virginia, a conservative Southern state politically similar to South Carolina where he decisively beat Senator John McCain of Arizona.

At stake in Virginia are 56 delegates in a winner-take-all primary. At the national convention, 33 delegates will come from the state's 11 congressional districts joined by 23 at-large delegates.

Wire service reports say that, because Virginians are not required to register by party, primary voters will be asked to sign a pledge promising not "to participate in the nomination process of any other party." State Republicans were afraid the national convention committee otherwise "would look askance" and not seat the state's delegation, said state party spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

On the West Coast, McCain has his sights on Washington, an independent-minded state that has created a unique primary marriage between its independent voters and the traditional system.

Voters there may choose from three ballots: Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated. However, neither party considers the unaffiliated ballots, meaning as much as two-thirds of the vote may go unnoted as far as delegate selection is concerned, according to the Washington secretary of state's office.

The Republican Party allocates 12 of its 37 delegates by percentage based on the GOP primary ballots. The remaining delegates will be assigned following state party rules during a March 7th caucus.

For the Democrats, the Washington primary is a "beauty contest." None of the state's 75 delegates will be assigned on Tuesday but rather during the March 7th caucus.

North Dakota Republicans are shifting from a primary to a caucus this year.

"People thought (the primary) was a waste of time," said Curly Haugland, the state's Republican Party chairman. By June, when the primary was held, "all the decisions were made."

North Dakota's 19 delegates will be allocated based on percentage. Voters will gather in schools, restaurants and other public meeting places on February 29th for an evening of politics, similar to the Iowa caucus.