Tuesday’s Iowa caucus will likely narrow the Republican presidential field.

But it’s also possible that a clear winner won’t be determined too quickly, leaving it to other states to help crown the eventual nominee who will face President Barack Obama in November.

For the first time, Hawaii Republicans will have the opportunity to weigh in on the national contest rather than just wait until November. At the party convention in Kauai in May, delegates voted to hold a presidential caucus on March 13.

It’s unlikely that the Hawaii GOP caucus will much influence the race. Hawaii’s GOP will send a mere 20 delegates to the national convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August. And Hawaii only has four electoral votes.

But, party members believe the caucus is a rare chance to grow membership for a party that has been a minority in Hawaii since statehood.

With the national media watching — Alabama and Mississippi have primaries the same day — it could be news in Obama’s home state that local Republicans voted for Mitt Romney, Ron Paul or whoever is still in the running come March.

Neither Too Early Nor Late

The push for a Hawaii GOP caucus came from Andrew Walden, the party’s chair of the presidential caucus system and the editor of the conservative blog Hawaii Free Press.

“His line of reasoning was that it should be held not too late where nobody cares about Hawaii — because we will pretty much know then who the candidate will be — and not too early, like Nevada, which was penalized a number of delegates because it moved its caucus up,” said David Chang, chair of the Hawaii Republican Party.

In October, Nevada relented and decided to hold its caucus Feb. 4, meaning it will not be ahead of the Iowa caucus and primaries in New Hampshire (Jan. 10), South Carolina (Jan. 21) and Florida (Jan. 31).

Hawaii’s caucus will still follow other follow big races, notably Super Tuesday on March 6 that features 10 states (including Ohio) holding either a primary or a caucus.

But Hawaii is ahead of the Missouri caucus (March 17), the Illinois primary (March 20) and a slew of major primaries in April, May and June.

New Jersey and California, for example, don’t hold primaries until June 5. The last primary is June 26 in Utah.

Chang, who has been contacted about the caucus by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and other mainland media, said national exposure has already started.

Romney, Paul On Ballot

The candidate fee to run in the GOP caucus is $5,000, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have already paid up.

Campaigns for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have expressed interest. Chang speculates they and other candidates are waiting to see how Iowa and New Hampshire shake out first, however.

The Hawaii filing deadline is Feb. 28.

If there is a clear front-runner by March, Hawaii’s caucus may not make much of a difference. That’s been the case in recent Hawaii Democratic caucuses.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry easily won the Feb. 24, 2004, Hawaii caucus (though Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich was a surprising second-place finisher) while Illinois Sen. Obama crushed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (though Clinton did not concede until that June).

How It Works

Chang said members of the Republican Party can vote in the caucus, which will be held from 6-8 p.m. at area schools and community centers throughout the state. Results will be announced that evening.

GOP membership is about 20,000, but other people may participate on the spot if they sign a party registration card and show valid identification.

Delegates will be awarded proportionate to the vote.

Chang said he is hopeful that the ballot registration fee will cover the costs to hold the caucus. When the party considered whether to have a caucus, a big concern was whether it was worth it, given the party’s recent challenges paying its bills.

But the caucus may benefit the GOP in other ways.

“To be brutally honest, Hawaii is not the most important state, but what I have said is that if one does very, very well in Obama’s backyard, it will be a symbolic victory,” he said. “A lot of people are starting to get excited.”

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