CHESTERFIELD, Mo.—The larger statewide Republican Party race for president was over before the shouting began in St. Louis County Saturday morning, but in the end voters gathered to caucus at Parkway West High School also decisively chose former President Donald Trump over former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida businessman David Stuckenberg.

Just before 4 p.m. Saturday, the Missouri Republican Party said Trump won all 114 counties and the city of St. Louis. The Associated Press called the race for Trump around 11:40 a.m. Saturday, just minutes before the voting phase of the second congressional district caucus site in St. Louis County began.

Trump ultimately won St. Louis County with 794 votes, compared with 174 for Haley and 1 for Stuckenberg.


According to party rules, caucus-goers who were in line at 10 a.m. were permitted to be part of the process. But a sizeable number of participants didn’t pre-register, which slowed down the check-in process and had lines snaked well outside the door.

What followed were impromptu recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance and the Our Father prayer, along with several Republican elected lawmakers who called for party unity.

As for that unity, if Trump still has a firm grip on the GOP in Missouri, the Republican factionalism that has played out at the state legislative level was also on display in this high school gym.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, who endorsed Trump a few weeks ago, was greeted by boos from some in the crowd who oppose her support for Ukraine. Wagner told Spectrum News it was possible to support allies abroad while also addressing the border crisis.


There was also consternation over who should be appointed as a secretary for the proceedings, as well as the slate of delegates that would advance to the congressional district convention in April. A state-level convention later this spring will confirm the identities of the state’s 54 delegates that will go to the GOP convention in Milwaukee in July. In both instances, it broke down to a case of the “grassroots vs. establishment.” The grassroots candidate won the secretary’s race, while a “unity” slate of delegates would emerge later Saturday. 

When it came time to nominate the presidential candidates, U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt spoke on Trump’s behalf.

“We are at a crossroads in this country, a crossroads for the soul of America. That is what’s on the line in November. In order to save this country from what we see happening right now, we need to elect Donald J. Trump as president,” Schmitt said, critical of President Joe Biden’s immigration and economic policies.

A woman who rose to nominate Haley was heckled by the audience, prompting former Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, the chair of the event, to threaten to shut it down if the taunts continued.

Haley had the support of another woman, Wanda Morgenthaler, of St. Louis County, who carried a sign urging voters to “Dump Trump.” She supported him in 2016 in hopes of bringing change to the U.S. Supreme Court, but soured on him during the pandemic. She voted for Biden in 2020 but won’t vote for either of them this year if given the choice.

“I would hope that more people like me and the people I’ve been talking with around here because my sign attracts people….I’m hoping that there will be more people in the future primaries that will wake up and will vote for Nikki and that she will ultimately end up being the candidate,” Morgenthaler said. 

Missouri’s moment in the primary presidential campaign will be brief this time around. There were no public rallies ahead of Saturday’s caucuses, with much of the focus over the last week being on South Carolina and Michigan, ahead of Super Tuesday.

“It is disappointing. We don’t like being taken for granted. We’re the heartland. We’re not just flyover country here and they should have more of a presence,” Wagner told Spectrum News. 

St. Louis County appeared to be the anomaly as far as how the caucuses were executed, according to Chris Howard, a state GOP official who was the chief architect of the system used Saturday. “There’s no way to mitigate the infighting,” he told Spectrum News, but said there would be after-action meetings to find out if anything different should have happened in St. Louis County to address the delays in getting started. Howard, who chaired the caucuses in Jefferson County, used the opportunity to remind participants that it was state lawmakers who eliminated the state-run primary in 2022 and have the power to restore it.

He called 2024’s process an overall success that he’d do again if necessary.

St. Louis County GOP Chair Rene Artman breathed a sigh of relief after it was over.

“I can get back to life. This was totally consuming for almost two months. I am so happy that so many people came and we’ve elected our nominee, President Trump and we’re going to win in November,” she said. 

Was she surprised at some of the drama that unfolded Saturday?

“Nothing surprises me in politics anymore,” she said.