In the con­tro­ver­sial 2005 book What’s the Mat­ter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank described how con­ser­v­a­tive politi­cians have made a com­pelling case even to those who end up vot­ing against their own eco­nomic inter­ests, using Kansas as an exam­ple of a once-​​progressive state now wrapped in a con­ser­v­a­tive man­tle. His intro­duc­tion includes a pas­sage which seems to pre­dict the cul­tural phe­nom­e­non that is for­mer Sen­a­tor Rick San­to­rum (R-​​PA):

This derange­ment is the sig­na­ture expres­sion of the Great Back­lash, a style of con­ser­vatism that first came snarling onto the national stage in response to the par­ty­ing and protests of the late six­ties. While ear­lier forms of con­ser­vatism empha­sized fis­cal sobri­ety, the back­lash mobi­lizes vot­ers with explo­sive social issues — sum­mon­ing pub­lic out­rage over every­thing from bus­ing to un-​​Christian art — which it then mar­ries to pro-​​business eco­nomic polices. Cul­tural anger is mar­shaled to achieve eco­nomic ends.

Nor­mally, the Kansas pri­mary or cau­cus has been as ho-​​hum as a drive through WaKeeney on I-​​70. (A week from today is the Dis­trict IV Wrestling Tour­na­ment, if you want to visit.) This year, the Kansas Cau­cuses will be a bit of wrestling sport for the Repub­li­can Party. Forty del­e­gates are up for grabs, as many as were avail­able in Mass­a­chu­setts or Min­nesota, and it looks like San­to­rum will pull out of the state with a slick major­ity of delegates.

There doesn’t seem to be any real-​​world polling avail­able. The out­come is cau­cus states is hard to pre­dict in any case. We’re left with the vir­tual prog­nos­ti­ca­tion of Intrade (95 per­cent chance of San­to­rum win). At The New York Times, Nate Sil­ver pre­dicts (with not very much con­fi­dence) a del­e­gate allo­ca­tion of 28 for San­to­rum, and a dozen for for­mer Mass­a­chu­setts Gov­er­nor Mitt Rom­ney.Start­ing at 10:00am local time, caucus-​​goers will begin con­gre­gat­ing and lis­ten­ing to speeches on behalf of the four can­di­dates: San­to­rum, Rom­ney, for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, and Con­gress­man Ron Paul (R-​​Lake Jack­son, TX). The ear­li­est caucus-​​leavers will be released at 10:30am. Speeches will repeat through­out the day at half-​​hour intervals.

Kansas Con­gres­sional dis­trict map. Source: nation​alat​las​.gov

Twelve del­e­gates will be allo­cated amongst Kansas’s four Con­gres­sional dis­tricts (map at left, the win­ner of each dis­trict receives three); 25 del­e­gates will be allo­cated pro­por­tion­ately to can­di­dates receiv­ing at least 20 per­cent of the vote; and three at-​​large del­e­gates will be bound to the win­ner of the statewide vote. The cau­cus is open only to reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans. In 2008, for­mer Arkansas Gov­er­nor Mike Huck­abee won 60 per­cent of the vote, Sen­a­tor John McCain (R-​​AZ) 24 per­cent, Ron Paul 11 per­cent, and Rom­ney three per­cent. This is fer­tile ter­ri­tory for San­to­rum, although he per­formed much worse than expected in neigh­bor­ing Oklahoma.

The U.S. Vir­gin Islands (six del­e­gates) are directly elect­ing their Repub­li­can del­e­gates today, too.

Also today, Guam (nine del­e­gates) and the North­ern Mar­i­anas Islands (also nine del­e­gates) will hold cau­cuses. Or, I should say, they already held their cau­cuses; they’re on the other side of the Inter­na­tional Date Line. Rom­ney got all nine Guam del­e­gates. As of this writ­ing, the North­ern Mar­i­anas haven’t reported the results. I would say that the North­ern Mar­i­anas, who gave all of their del­e­gates to John McCain, accu­rately pre­dicted the even­tual Repub­li­can nom­i­nee in 2008, but then you might think that I was being seri­ous and not being silly.