Spurred by one of our commenters, we took a closer look at the Lousiana and Hawaii Republican caucuses that take place next week, before Florida, but are being ignored by the Mainstream Media and even sophisticated pundits.
Having looked more closely, we can see why they're being ignored--both are so complicated and/or unusual that they are difficult to follow.
First, Louisiana: Next Tuesday, Louisiana Republicans will hold a closed caucus--i.e., open only to registered Republicans. The caucus will select delegates who, officially, will be "uncommitted." About half the delegates will not be allocated to any candidate until after a presidential primary selection process on February 9; the other half will remain "uncomitted"--however, each candidate will be running candidates for delegate who will support that candidate.
That's a simpler explanation than the way it really works, but it's good enough for here. The point is that it will be pretty difficult to parse at the end of the day on Tuesday who "won" because the caucus attendees won't be expressing a candidate preference. Nonetheless, someone (or ones) will walk out with a few delegates from the process, so the candidate whose campaign spends the time working it out can get something valuable from the process.
Hawaii is also weird because it's caucuses open next Friday, Jan. 25, but they go on through Feb. 5, at various locations. Thus, we won't really know who "won" Hawaii until Super Duper Tuesday, at which point the info won't be of much use in terms of anyone's momentum, etc.
Both the Louisiana and Hawaii selection process suffer from a not too uncommon Republican Party trait: paranoia. Worried that independents (heaven forbid) or even not particularly politically active or acute registered party member will get involved in the selection process, the GOP in some states erects elaborate procedures designed to make sure that only the party faithful have a say in the outcome. These are kind of mini-brokered affairs.
McCain, who does well with independents and moderate Republicans (who increasingly are frozen out of party leadership) presumably is at a disadvantage in these contests. Romney is at an advantage because of his extensive organization. Huckabee could be at an advantage given the disproportionate influence of evangelicals in these things, but he suffers from disorganization.
In any event, we'll be a little less critical of the MSM for its failure to cover these contests. The Curmudgeon, however, will do its best to check on what's happening with them and factor them into the larger picture.