PROVO -- The turnout for this week's Democratic and Republican caucus meetings turned out to be record setting.
Thousands of Utah County residents showed up on what is essentially Utah's first election day of the 2012 election cycle to vote on who will represent their neighborhood at their party's upcoming election.
The meetings also proved to be the first step in determining the fate of Utah's senior senator, Orrin Hatch. The first question asked of a candidate to be precinct chair in one of Provo's precincts was if he would support Hatch at the Republican Convention.
Rooms at Timpview High School in Provo were filled to capacity with a lot of discussion about Hatch and the reasons he should stay or go.
"I think that is part of the reason so many came out tonight," said Gene Shawcroft, about Hatch being the reason for the increased attendance. "I think a lot saw what happened to Bennett last time and are concerned about this year's outcome."
Despite the strong pro-Hatch support in one caucus meeting, the members of Provo's 40th precinct elected a precinct chair, who has a state delegate vote, who was uncommitted on whom he would support at the Republican Convention in April in the U.S. Senate race.
"I'm giving close examination to every candidate," said Brennan Platt, who was elected chair of the precinct. "There's a lot at stake."
Those looking to oust Hatch also showed up but they appeared to be fewer in number than the Hatch supporters.
"I came because I'm ready to make changes. I'm ready to have Sen. Hatch changed," said Monica Barlow.
Barlow said that in her precinct there were a fair number of Hatch supporters but there were still some who were ready to put forward another candidate.
The Hatch appeal wasn't the only reason attendance at the meeting jumped exponentially. Many at the caucus organizers credited The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the reason for attendance. One ballot counter joked that "Sen. Monson, not Sen. Hatch, should be thanked for the increase in attendance."
"The brethren told us it was important, so we came," said Haley Donaldson.
Donaldson noted that local church leaders had cancelled the activities she and her husband where in charge of organizing so they felt it was important they attended the meeting.
Democrats also enjoyed an upswing in attendance, even in Utah County, in this year's caucus meetings. County Democratic party chairman Will Matheson said attendance was up 20 percent this year and that one precinct had more than 80 members in attendance.
"It was incredible," Matheson said. "There was really a positive energy at the meetings."
Democrats held a presidential preference poll at their caucus meetings. They had the option to either give support to President Barack Obama or state that they were uncommitted to a presidential candidate. Early numbers released from the state party showed that Obama was leading in the poll with almost 80 percent supporting him for the Democratic nomination.