Why so much recent attention from Presidential candidates?

TRI CITIES -- Rick Santorum is scheduled to be in the Tri Cities Thursday evening in Pasco.

His campaign rally makes it the third by a White House hopeful in just two weeks. Action News learned that's because the Tri Cities is quickly becoming a major player in statewide politics.

"I do not remember the last time this many Republican candidates have come to town," says Benton County GOP State Committeeman Tony Benagas.

He and other local GOP leaders say, ever since Washington moved its caucus to before Super Tuesday, the area has gotten a lot more play.

"This is where you want to go," says Benton County GOP Chairman Patrick McBurney, "because you want to go to where the Republicans are."

It's exactly why he boldly called the Santorum campaign after Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich made their visits.

"I said, I believe you may not know it yet, but I think you're coming here, for a number of different reasons. So, what were those reasons? Well, the reasons are, that the candidate needs to come out to Eastern Washington. Rick Santorum had been to Tacoma, which I think was helpful for him, but he really needed to connect with the base of the party."

And it turns out, that base is right here in our backyard. McBurney says it's a little known fact that Benton and Franklin county are consistently the biggest suppliers of Republican votes in the state. It means voters here hold a lot of power.

"Tri cities is now going to be on the map," says Benegas. "So, the benefit is that there's all of a sudden going to be a lot of exposure, and people will have chance to get their voices heard."