Washington state Democrats are gathering across the state Sunday for precinct caucuses, where they're expected to express support for Barack Obama for president.

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Washington state Democrats will gather Sunday for precinct caucuses where they’re expected to express support for Barack Obama as their party’s presidential candidate.

The scene will be much different than four years ago, when Obama and Hillary Clinton were locked in a tight battle for the party’s nomination. Some 250,000 Democrats gathered at the party caucuses in 2008, ultimately choosing Obama.

Benton Strong, spokesman for the Washington State Democrats, acknowledged that the 2012 caucuses will be a quieter affair. Given Obama’s lack of competition this time around, Strong downplayed the significance of turnout.

“We’ll gauge enthusiasm when volunteers start showing up in our offices to help push forward to get Jay Inslee elected, President Obama re-elected and Maria Cantwell re-elected,” he said, referring to the party’s candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate.

The precinct caucuses are the first step in the process of choosing 105 of the state’s 121 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, to be held in September in Charlotte, N.C. Elected officials and party leaders will account for the other 16 delegates.

Delegates advancing from the precincts will face off at caucuses held later this month in the state’s 49 legislative districts. From there, the final set of delegates will be chosen at the state’s congressional district caucuses in May.

Everyone is welcome to attend the precinct caucuses and to take part in discussing the party’s platform. In order to vote for candidates and delegates, caucus-goers have to be registered to vote in the precinct and sign a card declaring themselves to be Democrats.

Mitt Romney won Washington state’s GOP presidential caucus straw poll last month. Washington state will send 43 delegates to the Republican national convention in Tampa in August.

Follow Jonathan Kaminsky at http://www.twitter.com/jekaminsky.