Monday, January 7, 2008

Caucus Night!

The Iowa Caucuses are a unique and important institution of American electoral politics. In my opinion, the caucus I observed was one of the most interesting and educational parts of the trip. I attended the Democrats' caucus in Ames 1-4, one of Iowa's more urban precincts. There appeared to be slightly more women than men, the ages seemed to range from around eighteen to 65, and the caucus was almost entirely White.
It began with the then-temporary caucus chair briefly explaining the process and reading a letter from the Iowa Democratic Party. This letter thanked people from their participation in the caucus and encouraged them to donate money to the Party. Afterwards, several large envelopes were passed around in order to collect donations.
After that, the temporary caucus chair and secretary were elected as the permanent caucus chair and secretary using a voice vote.
They counted the number of people present; the final count was 402.
Each campaign was given two minutes in order to try and persuade any undecided voters.
Then the first persuasion period began. Everyone had thirty minutes to persuade undecided voters and even people from other candidates to join their preference groups. The initial counts were as follows:
Obama – 147

Edwards – 86

Clinton – 64

Richardson – 63

Biden, Kucinich – 18

Dodd - 6

Since a preference group needed 60 members in order to become viable (and 31 members per delegate), the Biden, Kucinich, and Dodd supporters had to either realign themselves with another group or abstain from the process. We were sitting right behind the Kucinich supporters, and it was very interesting to watch them be courted by all three of the major candidates (Richardson not so much). Many of them ended up going with Obama, and the rest seemed to head off to Edwards. I didn't observe any going to join Clinton's group. One of the more interesting negotiations I observed was between Obama and Kucinich leaders. They made a deal that, if enough Kucinich supporters came over in order to give the Obama supporters another delegate, one of the Kucinich supporters could have that delegate spot. This happened, and one of the leaders of the Kucinich preference group eventually became a delegate for Sen. Obama.
After this second persuasion period, the counts and delegate allocations were as follows:

Obama – 164 (5)

Edwards- 101 (3)

Richardson – 70 (2)

Clinton – 66 (2)

Because the precinct had thirteen delegates to allocate, the Obama campaign got another delegate, bringing their final count to 6 delegates.
This precinct had no resolutions to pass.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic experience, and so well described! I found the posts about cacus night especially interesting because of all the media attention Iowans get during each presidential primary - and because I will be moving to Iowa myself in the fall. Excellent reporting on a unique political practice. -RCHill, Visiting Assistant Professor, Sociology, Manchester College