Today Will Test Success of Arkansas' Earlier Party Primaries

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Arkansas will find out today whether its $2.2 million gamble to move the state's presidential primary to an earlier date will pay off.  Backers of the move sought to draw candidates and boost the state's electoral significance.

State lawmakers voted in 2005 to hold the presidential primary in February, months earlier and separate from the primaries for other state offices in May.  Arkansas joins more than 20 other states that hold nominating contests today in what has essentially become a national presidential primary.

Competing for attention among that many states, Arkansas hasn't been the major draw for candidates or campaign cash that was hoped for with the earlier primary.  Aside from the candidates with local ties, Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Hillary Clinton, presidential hopefuls have mostly ignored the state in a nationwide delegate hunt.

Senator Tracy Steele, who sponsored legislation moving the primary earlier, says the candidates may not have visited the state but he says Arkansas is still benefitting.  Steele says Arkansas has more of a voice by voting now rather than waiting until after the party nominees have already been decided.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)