By Teri Okita
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tomorrow marks a historic day for Hawaii politics. Republican voters will get their say in the islands' first-ever GOP presidential caucus.
17 delegates are up for grabs. Three others are super-delegates - for a total of 20. While the candidates themselves won't be here, they sent some important surrogates to represent them: Matt Romney, Elizabeth Santorum, and Ronnie Paul. Hawaii is one of four states holding primaries or caucuses Tuesday, and all four GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum will be on the ballot.
When it comes to Presidential politics, Santorum's daughter, Elizabeth, thinks Father knows best. "I hear from a lot of people, you know, this is Obama's home state. What are you doing here?" says the 20 year old daughter. "Hawaii's important to us, and every state along the way brings something to our country."
Tuesday ushers in a new era in Hawaii politics - where Republican voters, rather than a select few at the state convention, will decide their Presidential nominee. "Their vote will directly correlate to how many delegates each presidential candidate will get. And, it's really, kind of, put us on the national map," explains Hawaii's GOP chairman, David Chang.
It's not winner-takes-all, so a second, third, or fourth place finish can still garner some of those delegates. The votes are binding going into the Republican National Convention in Tampa in late August.
Mitt Romney has sent his five sons across the country to campaign. Matt Romney's only regret about being in Hawaii is missing his dad's 65th birthday today. "He just said, 'Just keep doing what you're doing. The best present would be to get some delegates while you're out there', so I'll work on that. And if he's watching, Happy Birthday!" says Matt.
There are some 17,000 card-carrying Republicans in the state, and the GOP leadership hopes to sign up about five thousand more at the caucus on Tuesday.
A new CBS News/New York Times poll of GOP primary voters, nationwide, shows Santorum with a slight lead over Romney, 34% to 30%. But when asked who they thought would clinch the nomination, respondents overwhelmingly said Romney. Both Matt Romney and Elizabeth Santorum don't adhere much to polls, and since every delegate counts, they'll keep pressing the flesh to help dear old Dad.