WILLMAR -- Minnesota's desire to be a political player in the 2008 presidential race has local party officials hurrying to get the final details of the early caucus in place.

Minnesota has traditionally held caucuses in March. This year, however, Minnesota will be holding caucuses Feb. 5.

"I think that moving it up is just a part of a national trend among the political parties to not get lost in the shuffle. I think everybody wants to play a role," said Sam Nelson, chairman of the Kandiyohi County DFL Party.

Dubbed "Super Duper Tuesday," Minnesota will be one of nearly two dozen other states involved with selecting their party's presidential preferences that day.

"It's kind of exciting and should get a lot of folks out," said Rollie Nissen, chairman of the Kandiyohi County Republican Party.

With a wide open field of candidates in the Republican presidential line-up, Nissen said it "should be fun" for local party activists to voice their opinion in the presidential poll, as long as they "bury the hatchet" when the evening is over.

If Minnesota had retained its March caucus date, it "wouldn't have really had a whole lot of meaning in the national scope of things," said Nelson.

Nissen and Nelson agree that the presidential nominees could have been selected without any input from Minnesota if the state had hung on to its March caucus date.

"If you want to be on the game, you've got to join the teams that are playing and get in on the action," said Nissen.

There are some downfalls to the early caucus.

Because "everybody wanted to get ahead of everyone else," Nissen said most of the caucuses will be "squeezed" together in a 1½-month period of time. That could make it difficult for candidates to get their "story out" before Feb. 5.

And, said Nissen, Minnesota is a "medium" state in terms of the number of delegates and most candidates will be focusing on states like California and Texas and may bypass Minnesota in their frenzied campaign tours.

Despite the earlier time line, both Nelson and Nissen say all the plans are in place for Super Tuesday in Kandiyohi County.

"It's been a little hectic, but we have all of our sites secured," said Nissen.

Conveners for both parties will be briefed on the procedures for the caucus, including how to conduct and report the presidential preference vote. Results will be forwarded to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office.

Nelson and Nissen say they expect a higher-than-average crowd at the caucuses this year.

Individuals who are currently 17, but will turn 18 years old by the time the November election is held, will be allowed to participate and vote at both parties' caucuses.

Besides voting on presidential candidates, resolutions for a party's platform can also be introduced at caucuses.

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