Saturday, January 12, 2008
Before going to Iowa, I was interested in politics, but not as much as I am now. This presidential race is more so now than ever something that I am excited to be witnessing and eager to see the results. It is an exciting time in the world of politics that is for sure. With Super Tuesday fast approaching, I am eager to see which candidates drop out and which candidates accomplish their goals better than even they expected.
Friday, January 11, 2008
According to an article by Dan Lothian, there is no winning the south without winning the votes of African Americans. In South Carolina the African American vote is divided between those loyal to the Clinton family and those wanting Obama to win. Personally, I worry a little about the idea of electing family members of a former president so soon; it’s beginning to look a little monarchial to me—Bush Sr., B. Clinton, B. Clinton, Bush Jr., Bush Jr., H. Clinton. That’s not to say Hillary wouldn’t make an excellent president, but it makes me a little nervous. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to elect anyone based on their sex, race, or family ties alone.
Polls in July, 2007, showed that Clinton was leading the field with 52% of votes while Obama trailed with 33%. In December the polls showed Clinton at 46% and Obama with 45%. The Clinton campaign is relying heavily on votes from women and momentum from New Hampshire. Obama’s campaign will rely on the youth vote and those in the higher income bracket. According to the polls where the African American vote will go is still anyone’s guess. We shouldn’t quite forget John Edwards yet either. He won 37% of the African American vote in South Carolina in 2004 and won the state. Though he trails in the polls right now we know that those haven’t been very accurate recently.
Something that I noticed is that Mike Huckabee seemed to have a lot of die-hard supporters and there were very few undecided voters there. I was able to talk to one very committed Mike Huckabee supporter, a man who told us he was in his seventies. He said that after he went to see Ronald Reagan inaugurated, he swore that he would never go to another inauguration again. “But I'd go for Mike,” he said. “I'd go to see Mike.”
Unlike many of the other events we attended, there was no clear person in charge. Before Huckabee spoke, a band headed by a former Iowa state legislator played a few songs. There were also people from an anti-IRS organization called FairTax there handing out shirts and baseball caps. Also unlike some other events we attended, Mike Huckabee was on time.
It was also different in that it was not recruiting new supporters as much as it was rallying the ones he already had. He quoted the Bible (to great cheers) and didn't talk about exactly what he was going to do as much as how important it was that he was able to do what he wanted to do.
Also there was actor Chuck Norris, who endorsed Mike Huckabee. Apparently Chuck's endorsement is doing more than some might think- according to the NPR story linked above, Chuck Norris (who, by the way, has counted to infinity twice) has drawn lots of young people to Huckabee's rallies, and they liked Huckabee's politics enough that they're now considering voting for him.
After all, Mike Huckabee's bumper stickers don't have glue on them. They stick because Chuck Norris told them to.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Due to this negative image, you would think that Giuliani would want to campaign a great deal to give himself a positive image.
One of the most interesting things about the Giuliani campaign is that they are taking an “unconventional” approach to their strategy. They have avoided both Iowa and New Hampshire for the most part and are focusing their strengths on Florida. They feel that if they make it to Florida then they will gain the momentum that they need to keep going on with the campaign. Because Giuliani has skipped Iowa and New Hampshire, he has missed out on an extensive amount of media coverage and as a result of that he could lose out on potential donations. Also as a result of his “unconventional” strategy he could lose the latter states in which he was banking on. Giuliani and his campaign has been saying that it has been their strategy all along to skip Iowa and New Hampshire and focus on Florida, California, Illinois, and New York.
Will Giuliani’s “unconventional” strategy last? One of the most important things for a front-runner to maintain is their favorable image. If Giuliani is not competitively campaigning against his opponents, how can he expect to gain any positive media coverage or any resulting donations? The advantages of front-runners are most notably seen in the beginning of the race. Giuliani has not taken advantage of his name recognition in the campaigns in Iowa or New Hampshire. Giuliani has almost not been a contender in the campaigns thus far, so how does he honestly expect to prosper in latter races. The biggest challenge that the strategy of Giuliani’s campaign is not considering is the lack of media coverage and the resulting votes and donations. If Giuliani’s strategy works and he some how pulls through the race and gains the nomination, he will defy a lot of odds because as the research shows, he should not do well later on throughout the race.
In the end they find a non-frontrunner in the diner that Elden always hangs out at. He speaks to all of them, and the whole family decides that they like him the most. The musical was basically about how once the candidates start showing up in Iowa after Christmas, the people of Iowa never get a break from candidates, campaign workers, the media, and all of the other “rats” (rats describe people like us who follow the candidates around-as described in an Iowa newspaper). This musical is hilariously real, and it has been almost a week now and I still can’t get the songs out of my head.
I was definitely the most excited to see President Clinton. I have always liked him, and I could not wait to hear him speak in person. He talked about Hillary, and mostly her past experience and what she has done for the people. He talked about what she did straight out of college, how instead of going to work for a big law firm and make a lot of money, she went to work to defend children’s rights. Obviously, he was able to talk about Hillary on a more personal level. He discussed the strengths that Hillary possesses that would make her a good President, and he told us how much he believed in her. To be honest, even though I listened to the entire speech, I think that I was so excited about watching Bill Clinton speak, and thinking ahead to getting a picture with him after the speech that it was hard for me to pay attention to everything he said. All in all he was a very impressive speaker, and I think that even though President Clinton can be looked upon as bringing her down, he is also making out to be a great asset to Hillary’s campaign.
Everyone there from the steelworkers union had obviously made up their minds to vote for him. Another good part about seeing John Edwards was that we were right behind him on stage during his speech, and it was broadcast on all of the major news networks. On YouTube Jessie can be seen throughout the entire speech. FoxNews showed me shaking John Edwards’ hand, and I was in a picture on MSNBC.com right behind him. Along with seeing all of the candidates and getting to work for them, it was also super cool that our class got their 15 minutes of fame.
If in fact Obama appeals mostly to upper middle and upper class voters with higher educations I wonder how Kerry’s very recent endorsement will help. Kerry had a very similar problem in the 2004 elections. He just didn’t have the appeal that he needed with lower income voters; many saw him as a stuffy, wealthy, white man. Since Obama seems to have received most of his votes in New Hampshire from more educated and better-off voters could this be a problem he will come to face?
I also think many people were surprised in Kerry’s announcement to endorse Obama since his running mate from 2004, John Edwards, is in fact running for the nomination as well. Kerry made a statement to try and smooth things over. He said that he felt that the people he’s worked with in the past are certainly hard workers and capable of becoming president, but over all that Obama is the best candidate.
Kerry continued the trend of talking about change, probably because that has been Obama’s key position even before it became the million dollar word for so many candidates. Kerry said that Obama was the man that could bring unity back to Washington and bring the change that America needed. He also said, “history gives up moments. We decide what to do with them”. He went on to say that this is the moment to choose Barack as our candidate and future president. It will be interesting to see the exit polls from South Carolina; if Obama will be able to appeal to voters of each class and all education levels and also whether Kerry’s endorsement will help.
Then it all started. The room was divided into candidate preference groups. When the candidates’ support was tallied, the undecided participants (who were supporting nonviable candidates) were told to select a candidate from among the viable ones. This is when it really got really hectic. Supporters of viable candidates were hustling to persuade undecided voters to join their candidate. There was arguing, shouting, chanting, and all around chaos. After 30 minutes of realignment, the new supporter followings were counted and the delegates were assigned. Barack Obama received 52% (6 delegates), John Edwards received 29% (3 delegates), and Hillary Clinton received 19% (2 delegates).
I enjoyed this experience because I got to see first hand what real democracy is supposed to be like. It was real people talking with one another about what is best for our country. I feel like more states should adopt this kind of procedure for allotting delegates.
Bill Richardson is not endorsing another candidate. This comes as a shock to a lot because I think many, like myself, were expecting him to endorse Obama and ask his supporters to do the same (much the way Kucinich had). I think this is another strategic move because it keeps his options open for vice president offers from all three front running candidates. I really hope that this works out for him, and that he does, in fact, become the vice presidential nominee.
The Republican race has a much less telling story. John McCain bypassed Iowa to concentrate on New Hampshire; just as he did in 2000. Rudy Giuliani has skipped the first two states to focus on Florida and Super Tuesday. So, the Republicans have not yet had a caucus or primary where every candidate has tried to win it. Mike Huckabee just seemed to be a footnote in New Hampshire, finishing 3rd, which everyone expected. In the convoluted Republican race one thing is certain this year; no candidate is a clear front-runner and the nomination is anyone's guess. Many pundits have said that Mike Huckabee was a one-hit wonder in Iowa, John McCain was a one-hit wonder in New Hampshire, and Mitt Romney may finish as the "bride's maid" in every state; making him the eventual "bride." Huckabee was leading in South Carolina, but McCain has recently overtaken him. Former Senator Fred Thompson is known in the south and may be a dark horse in South Carolina and may throw a wrench into the whole system. Though McCain is slightly ahead of Huckabee is the latest South Carolina poll; there could be a candidate chosen for Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Michigan could go to Romney, who has won the nominal Wyoming. The Democratic nomination is really only a two horse race between Clinton and Obama; while the Republican party is pandemonium. Super Tuesday will reveal a lot for both parties, but the Republican nominee may not be decided until the end of summer
Although McCain had the potential to enter the race as a front-runner because he is well-known, he has not made the effort to match other candidates' fund-raising and spending or to campaign enough to maintain his advantage. Currently, he is leading for the Republican candidates in the South Carolina polls. However, Governor Mike Huckabee has been striking a chord with many Christians, and in the past, McCain has struggled to gain their support. For this presidential election, though, he has made great efforts to reach out to Christian voters, but will it be enough to win South Carolina? A victory could propel him to win other Southern states.
McCain can offer Republican voters a middle ground between Governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Besides his experience and credentials, McCain can offer the unique combination of consistent conservative views with the willingness to compromise and collaborate with Democrats for solutions to the nation's issues. If McCain wants to compete with the "big boys," he should hit the fund-raising, spending, and campaigning hard. He needs more media attention than winning the New Hampshire caucuses will give him.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has had success on the 2008 campaign trail with an astonishing win in Iowa, but that does not erase the fact that he is going to struggle to make ends meet. The first indicator that Mike is a non front-runner candidate is his lack of funds that are crippling his ability to run a multi-state campaign. Although he has raised millions of dollars it is not enough to compete with the personal wealth of Mitt Romney, and long-time running foe John McCain. Millions of people, if not from Arkansas, had little idea who Huckabee was when the race began. His one state campaign blitz worked well for him in Iowa, but the lack of ability to use that amount of resources in New Hampshire threw him into a third place rally.
The strategy Mike is imploring leads one to believe that he is not a front-runner. The characteristics of the campaign, although they have not changed much from Iowa to New Hampshire, indicate that the candidates he is running against are much more resourceful. One thing that really sticks out is his staging of events, his solicited invitations to appear on talk shows, and most recently his choice to hit the airwaves. The events in Iowa included a live band and a guest appearance by Chuck Norris. He appeared on David Lettermen the night before the New Hampshire primary, and Jay Leno the night before the Iowa caucus. In most recent headlines Mike is going to sit down with Stephen Colbert. According to his website, www.mikehuckabee.com, he is also planning a media outpouring by hitting the airwaves. All these facts indicate a man struggling to compete with the big money spenders of the 2008 presidential race. He is obviously using free media resources to gain as much ground on candidates as possible. My guess is that the paid media advertisements have been decreasing on his end as well.
Huckabee’s stepping stone approach is well illustrated with his choice to run hard and strong at the onset of the Iowa caucus. His ideas obviously struck a chord in Iowans hearts because he won, and in doing so it has energized his campaign. It shocked the media, and after winning the caucus, donations began to pour in accompanied by volunteers. His non front-runner status can be summed up in his words after the Iowa caucus, “It wasn't just that we surprised people with a second showing, it's that we did it with so few resources. I mean, this really was feeding the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves, an amazing kind of day for us."
Mike Huckabee now thinks of himself as a top tier Republican candidate and does so with good reason. Any “small man” that can win Iowa should take pride in what he has done. Personally, I do not think that Mike has a big shot at becoming the presidential nominee, but then again people probably said the same thing about Jimmy Carter. I think that campaigning today focuses too much on the importance of having money in order to win office, and that it is a terrible thing. Our founding fathers did not spend millions of dollars to win elections; they talked politics and preached their philosophy with whatever resources they had. The United States needs and deserves change, and I think no matter whom gets elected this year that change is hopeful.
Monday, January 7, 2008
One should expect the New Hampshire primary results, at least on the side of the Republicans, to be drastically different from those in Iowa. The not always accurate polls that are being released show Sen. John McCain surging. One could easily expect this though because he relinquished rights to Iowa in order to focus his campaign strategy in the hearts of New Hampshire voters. Mitt Romney is his closest foe in New Hampshire. Romney's multi-million dollar personal bank account should help him gain some ground on McCain. The clear-cut winner in Iowa, Mike Huckabee, will most likely take third place. His win in Iowa may have been a severe anomaly that proves how unrepresentative Iowa is, but we will leave that one up to those who already have their degrees. Huckabee is also lacking in sufficient funds, which will greatly hinder his running.
The Democrats should get a similar result as in Iowa. Barack Obama will most likely take New Hampshire by a moderate margin. The race for second will be between John Edwards and Hillary Clinton as was the case in Iowa. Hillary recently teared up on national television, which might prove a disaster or beneficial. The voters may decide she is weak and would be in office as well, others might see a sincerity in her desire to make a change in this great nation. It will be interesting to see whether Barack will get more women voters again. John Edwards will most likely take second place. His southern democrat style leaves room for more independents, and New Hampshire will most likely rally behind his vigor and passion.
The New Hampshire primary will be a big indicator of whats to come on super Tuesday. The 2008 presidential race will most likely become one of the tightest races in this country's history. John McCain and Barack Obama are the two candidates I see "taking the cake" in N.H. Everyone should tune in it will be interesting.
The day started out with breakfast and a drive to Des Moines. We stopped at the State Historical Building where the show was to be held later in the evening. After touring the museum for hours my fellow students and I decided to test our street smarts in downtown Des Moines. The day proved full of fun with a visit to the science center, a superb dinner at a local microbrewery, and the musical.
The musical featured a typical Iowa farm family that had been chosen by a big time journalist to observe during the caucus. There are four major candidates that compose the majority of stage time. Each one vies for one member of the families vote. In the end the family becomes split because each member chooses a different candidate. Eventually they decide on a candidate named Littlebear because he represents a certain value that each member holds dearly. The entire showing proved to be a farce on the current political state, including certain senators in airports, Bill Clinton think-a-likes, and Condoleeza Rice look-a-likes. It deals with the attitude that most voters have by the end of the caucus; no desire.
Caucus: the musical proved to be one of the most fascinating events of the trip. It allowed the entire group to breathe a sigh of relief. It provided long needed humor and relaxation. John Robert Ford did a splendid job with this production.
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.
Today we traveled to De Moine and visited the Iowa State Historical Museum. We met a Manchester Alumni and his wife and discussed the Caucus. The Caucus exhibit was a very nice exhibit, however; I was beginning to become easily distracted and did not give the museum my full attention. After visiting the Historical Museum, we split up into different groups in which some of us went to the State Capital Building and others went shopping. After a long three hours of walking downtown De Moine and shopping we decided to go eat at a nice restraunt. It was a great meal and the ideal dinner to end our trip. With our stomachs full, we walked back to the Historical Museum to see "Caucus! The Musical". The musical was a about a family being divided by different candidates and in the end coming together to find the "ideal" candidate. "Caucus! The Musical" was packed full of humor and I was laughing almost the entire time. I believe this play was a much needed comic relief to the week we spent in Iowa. Many of us bought the official "Caucus! The Musical" t-shirts and Dr. Williams enjoyed the musical enough to buy the cast soundtrack. In all, this was a great week and I enjoyed every event that I went to. The only thing that I would change if I got a chance to redo my week in Iowa would be to try to watch more rallys for candidates. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Williams for setting up this great learning experience.
Even as people filed in, before they split up into their respectable groups, they talked amongst each other, welcoming each other and talking to the few children observing from the back of the room. The elementary school child who sat next to me was asked whom he wanted to win, and he said that he was there for Edwards, and when he was asked whom his mother was caucusing for he answered “Clinton.” That was very interesting that the children even care enough or know enough to have different views than their parents.
At first, one person per candidate was given one minute to speak on stage about their candidate. Most of the speeches were very informal and respectable, and surprisingly to me, after each speech every person in the room clapped for them. It was a very friendly caucus in regards to people’s reactions toward the people voting against them.
The best part of where we were sitting was that we were right behind the eighteen people there to caucus for Kucinich. From the very beginning, people were coming from the Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and Dodd groups to talk to them and make nice with them. The precinct captain from the Clinton group was only talking nicely to them, not talking politics at first, but the Edwards precinct captain automatically handed them pamphlets about John Edwards, trying to persuade them to come to their group. The lady from the Dodd group hung around until she was sure that there would only be eighteen people in the Kucinich group because there were only six people for Dodd, and the extra eighteen were not going to get Dodd anywhere. In the end, most of those people ended up with Edwards and Obama, and it only took one realignment after the first thirty minute time period.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
The Democratic Party's Caucuses operated much differently than a normal election. The voting was much less like an election and much more like a vote in Congress where the votes are not cast secretly. All of the participants crowded into a big auditorium and either sat around the candidate who they planned on voting for or they walked around and tried to convince others to join their candidate. This went on for about a half an hour or so until the temporary Caucus chair called the Caucus to order. Much like a court room or a senate session. Once the chair had called the Caucus to order, he formally listed the instructions and procedures that the Caucus-goers would observe. He asked that everyone be civil about the process and spoke of the entire protocol that was given to him by the Iowa's Democratic party. After he had went through all of this, he asked the Caucus organizers to close the doors and count the number of participants. He had three people go up and down the isles several times and finally returned a count of exactly four hundred participants. He then had a helper determine the fifteen percent amount needed for a candidate to gain viability and the amount needed to divide the precinct's thirteen delegates among the viable candidates.
After he had counted and calculated the amount needed for viability, which happened to be sixty participants, he allotted a thirty minute period to the participants to move about and find their respective candidates. Nobody really left their seat and moved to another candidate really because almost everyone had decided to sit by their candidate initially. However, many of the parties' campaign leaders stood up and walked to other groups to try and encourage voting for leader's candidate. This measure was fairly unsuccessful in the first round because there were no undecided voters and all of the groups that the Caucus-goers might have thought to be inviable had not been eliminated yet. Mostly everyone sat in their seat aside for a few arguing or negotiating parties. I would have thought that groups like Dodd, Kucinich, and Biden that did not have enough for viability would negotiate with those groups who had large amounts of participants. The lower tier candidates might try to persuade the larger groups to give them extra people to keep them alive. However, this did not work very well seeing as how the larger groups had a huge advantage in negotiating. They would gain viability regardless while if the lower tiers did not offer great help to the larger groups, they would be deemed inviable and lose their candidate by the second round. I saw this happen several times where a group such as Kucinich or Dodd would make contact with Hillary or Obama and request that they give them the extra people over and above the amount needed for viability or extra delegates. As these dealing went on, they went from the lower tier candidates asking the larger ones for extra people, to larger candidates asking smaller ones to join them entirely. This did not happen in the first round because nobody wanted to entirely leave their candidate; however, by the time that the second round came and the lower tiers who had not reached viablitiy were undecided, things changed greatly.
After the thirty minutes given for the first round were over, the chair asked everyone to return to their candidate's group and sit down. He had the Caucus organizers count the participants in each group. Biden and Dodd were counted and weeded out immediately because they held only thirty some Iowans between them. Kucinich was busy talking to the Obama still but by the time they were counted they had failed to reach and agreement and were eliminated. One of the biggest surprises was the showing of Bill Richardson in our precinct. He managed to gain around seventy voters and was not far off from the amount that Hillary, the front-runner, had gained. The larger groups were counted and Barack Obama's group had a great deal more than the others with around one hundred and forty. John Edwards was in second with around eighty and Hillary and Richardson dangled around sixty voters. After the votes had been tallied and the smaller groups had been eliminated, the chair gave the Caucus a second to get itself re situated for the second round.
The second round was a bit different than the first seeing as the first had no undecided voters and relatively few negotiations and the second had a great deal of undecided voters coming from the groups that had been eliminated. The Biden and Dodd voters distributed themselves about the other four parties individually by their own affiliations. However, the Kucinich supporters were still trying to make a deal with the Obama supporters. When most of the participants had aligned themselves with their respected group, the chair attempted to call the second round to a close. However, the Kucinich and Obama camps were still discussing and made a movement to extend the time. Before the movement could be voted on or discussed, the Kucinich and Obama groups pull away from the movement saying that they had come to an agreement. The Obama group had agreed to allow the head of the Kucinich campaign to go as a delegate to the state convention as an Obama delegate if he and his group aligned with Obama. This deal was very interesting to me and it gave me an idea of the types of dealings that did take place at a Caucus.
At the end of the Caucus, the votes were tallied and then repeated back to the audience. Our precinct had an astounding number of votes for Obama and he captured six of the thirteen delegates. Edwards managed to gain three delegates for the state convention and Hillary and Richardson had two for each. The biggest surprise was the fact that Hillary placed fourth at our precinct. For a long time she was predicted to win it and was beaten by two first tier candidates and a second tier candidate.
The Caucus was a new experience. I had always seen it as just being like a primary or an election but it is nothing like either of those. There was fighting and discussions and dealings and negotiations. People who were very persuasive were able to convince others to change their votes or move for some mutually beneficial purpose. There was not the kind of excitement that I had heard about at other precincts but it was a lot more interesting than a regular election.
The assassination of Pakistan's Prime Minister Benzir Bhutto is with out a doubt a terrible and tragic step away from democracy for Pakistan. The corruption and mis-dealings involved with the election and assassination are so severe and noticeable that Pakistan has pushed its political fiasco onto the world stage. While this event is no doubt unfortunate, almost all of the candidates have made attempts to use this assassination as a proving ground for their foreign policy abilities. While some have jumped on this almost immediately, others have bided their time to help both their own campaigns and the situation in Pakistan. Among these major candidates are Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.
Hillary Clinton was among the first to respond to the situation in Pakistan. She was asked if she believed that the Pakistani government and President Musharaff were capable or credible of conducting a fair investigation of the assassination. Hillary said that the only fair way of conducting this investigation was through an international tribunal, Interpol or the United Nation. She stated that she believed there was no credibility in the Pakistani government to conduct this investigation. She then said that she was reluctant to send the United States law enforcement to investigation because it might lack credibility for “other reasons.” Hillary did not do too much on the matter of the assassination. She made no real attempt to comfort the grieving Pakistanis or bring closure to the situation but she did a decent job of keeping herself away for an obviously touchy issue.
On the other end, Senator Barack Obama made a disastrously false step. His campaign used the assassination as an opportunity to attack his opponents. He claimed that the situation in Pakistan is out of control because of the United State's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Illinois Senator also noted that Hillary Clinton had voted for both of these wars and was therefor responsible. Obama did not get the effect he desired. Instead he was rewarded with hours of negative news coverage. This reaction to the assassination looked more like politicking than any sort of condolence or consolation to the Pakistani people. He didn't do anything to assist the nation or stabilize a nation that is dangerously close to chaos. If Obama was using this event as a test, he just failed.
John Edwards was the last of the Democrats to comment on the assassination. Edwards called for a internationally led investigation and a postponement of the Prime Minister election. Edwards also sat down with Pakistani government and member's of Bhutto's family to offer his and America's condolences on the tragedy.
While these three did not actually do anything to assist the Pakistanis, they used this assassination as an litmus test to one another's foreign policy. The candidates made this into an almost mock-crisis. They were able to act without having truly negative international consequences.
On the first Thursday of 2008, Iowa held the first of many presidential caucuses. The two precincts observed were 1-3 and 1-4. The precinct 1-3 was unlike anything I have ever been apart of. Arriving around six in the evening, our group headed into the long line that snaked through an Ames library. People with registration papers walked up and down the waiting line making sure everyone caucusing was a registered voter or would be by November. Once a person got to the sign-in tables our caucus chairman, Phyllis Peters, yelled out commands for what line people should divide into. The three lines were: Registered democrats, new registered voters, and observers/youth.
The attendance for 1-3 was 273 Iowans plus observers and media. The rooms occupancy read in the one hundreds. They had between 80-100 chairs set up and then everyone else was standing shoulder to shoulder. Although there were some young people, most of the precinct was full of middle-aged and older folks. Campaign representatives were running around trying to talk to as many people as they could. They were giving out stickers trying to pry people to join their candidate’s side.
At seven o’clock the caucus began. Phyllis Peters welcomed everyone and read two letters from a senator and the other from the Democrat Party headquarters. Next on the agenda was a vote for the caucus chairman for the next caucus. They voted by hand count. This process of counting was terrible in a small room with many people. So terrible the third nominated chairman pulled out just so they could start with the real deal. On the walls all around the room were the campaign signs for each of the democrat candidates. Once the total attendance was taken, the math was calculated to select 11 delegates out of the 1-3 precinct. Then 30 minutes were given for everyone to go to their candidate’s part of the room with the campaign sign. After the count, came the persuading. The persuading was the most entertaining and interesting part of this whole experience. Obama overwhelmingly had the most with 117, followed by Edwards with 54, and Hillary Clinton with 52. Each group had to have 41 supporters to be viable. This left out Richardson, Kucinich, Biden, and Dodd. Now 20 more minutes were given out so those groups not viable could either join another candidate who was viable or join with each other to make another viable group. The latter is what Bill Richardson’s representatives were trying to make happen. These representatives were by far the most organized and were the best persuaders and although they had more supporters join, they never were able to get over the 41 needed. Hillary’s supporters began to get upset since they were in third place. I was able to hear one man come over to the non-viable side of the room and express his disbelief that they “would come out here and just waste your time by not picking a candidate.” Clinton’s campaign was so desperate, I witnessed them cheat on their count. While counting hands, a woman who was double counted admitted she had been counted once already. The captain responded he was in charge and was right. By the end of this time session, Obama had 130 supporter winning six delegates. Edwards got three delegates while Clinton received two.
Overall in the Iowa caucus, Obama won with 38% of the delegates and Edwards and Clinton tied with 29%. The caucus process was so neat to witness. All of the shouting and persuading and running around were incredibly stimulating and entertaining to observe. I came away wishing Indiana had such an important caucus I could be apart of.
Going into the Precinct 1-4 Caucus tonight, I did not quite know what to expect. I understood the basics of how a caucus worked but actually seeing how it worked really explained the process. The event started with the Temporary Chair reading a letter from the Iowa Democratic Headquarters. The opening business with the Caucus was finding a Permanent Chair and a Permanent Secretary which the Temporary Chair and Secretary were just voted in as the Permanents.
From observing the Caucus, I learned a lot about the process. First of all, you really get to see how crucial it is to get to the viability and every last person you can to caucus for your campaign. The Caucus itself was run very smoothly. I gained the impression that the Permanent Chair has held the position before. He kept the audience in line as well as keeping everything in a very timely manner. Being Iowa, the Caucus was predominately white. The ages were not as one-sided; my best guess would be that the audience was about fifty-fifty but age was divided up by candidates. Barack Obama’s caucus-goers were mainly young adults but still had several older supporters. Hillary Clinton had mainly middle age supporters as well as Bill Richardson and John Edwards. Dennis Kucinich, although he only had eighteen supporters, had a very wide variety of supporters. We sat with the rest of the observers in the back-left section of the auditorium. We had a conversation with a man that was legal immigrant and was very curious about the Caucus. We explained as best we could and explained why he was not allowed to participate. We also sat behind a student from California who was helping with the Barack Obama Campaign. He had a laptop with the formula of viability which allowed us to keep up with all of the candidates and how many delegates they would receive.
I was very pleased with the results of the Caucus at Precinct 1-4 as well as the rest of the state of Iowa. After the first round of Caucusing, Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton, Governor Bill Richardson, and former Senator John Edwards were the only ones viable. At the end, Obama had 164 votes which gave him 6 delegates for the county convention; Edwards received 101 votes and 3 delegates. Richardson and Clinton finished with 2 delegates each. I was very surprised with Bill Richardson beating Hillary Clinton in our precinct although in the rest of Iowa Hillary came in a close third to John Edwards. I think Barack Obama winning the Precinct Caucus will definitely give him the momentum to carry on a very successful campaign.
So we all think that we know how the Caucuses work, right? A bunch of Iowans get together and vote and the candidate who is most popular wins, it seems simple enough. There are debates and the usual campaigning and then there is an election. I held this idea of Iowa as just being a regular election. People vote, people count, someone wins. However, after a couple of days here I have had my perception of these Caucuses altered. The scope of their importance, the way in which the Caucuses are conducted, the amount of people attracted to the site etc.
I used to think of the Caucuses as outdated and fairly impractical. It never seemed to make sense why the United States would judge its presidential candidates on a state as isolated and non-diverse as Iowa. Why would a candidate drop-out after a poor finish at Iowa seeing how few delegates Iowa actually has? The thing is, the parties could chose just about any state to start the primary season. However, Iowa had moved its Caucus to the front and although it seems like it is a bad state to represent the views of America, it just doesn't seem practical to move it. The special thing about Iowa is its size and population. There are much less voters here than in a New York or a California so candidates meet with a much larger amount of people and are able to campaign to certain niches. They can campaign and talk to much more rural voters that would usually be forgotten in a much bigger state. While these people may not matter as much, they hold their share of electoral power. They allow the candidates to communicate with voters that are usually unappreciated.
The other important thing about Iowa that makes it such a bell-weather state is the fact that it is the first Caucus. Candidates pour huge amounts of time and resources into these Caucuses and the candidates use these as all or nothings to a certain extent. They gauge their performances here and decide whether or not to keep running for the candidacy. They put so much into these campaigns that they can calculate how they will poll while they are campaigning at their best. Iowa has been a fixture in both Democratic and Republican parties for more than thirty years now. Its importance as a state is over shadowed by its major role as the political litmus test for almost all of the candidates.
Today I volunteered at the John Edwards campaign center. This was a little less interesting than some of the rallies we have been to but sometimes it helped to do some dirty work on a campaign to better understand how the campaigns function. The John Edwards people told us that we would be canvassing; unfortunately, I had no idea what canvassing was or what it involved. Jesse and I were given a bunch of fliers and handouts as well as a script and they sent us out into the nearly subzero temperature to go door-to-door and ask people if they were planning on caucusing for John Edwards. I wasn't quite sure what they expected us to gain out of this measure but we went out and did it anyway. I think I should re-emphasize how cold it was. We went down several streets and talked with undecided voters. Among the few that were home, a couple claimed that the would be supporting John Edwards. The others took their time explaining to us why they wouldn't support him as we stood on their doorstep. After doing this for a couple of hours we finally called it quits and went back to the campaign center and asked for a new task. They gave us a call sheet and had us call supporters for another several hours. I would have thought that this would have been better than freezing outside but I didn't really enjoy the calls much more. I had to drone off of my script to every answering machine and when I finally managed to talk to a person, I was either quickly confirming their support or listening to their reasons for non-support. I called a woman and asked her if she planned to caucus and if so, did she plan to caucus for Edwards. She turned around and explained her view for a good twenty minutes. She argued all of the points I tried to emphasize and said that she didn't support Edwards because he opposed nuclear power, something I new very little about. We argued and argued for a while then I handed the phone off to a supervisor who had to talk to the woman for another fifteen minutes before the woman finally admitted that she has been an Obama supporter from the start. This is how I spent almost six hours of my day yesterday. Talking and arguing with people who had already chosen the candidate that they wished to caucus for. I don't quite understand the importance of these campaign headquarters but I know that it must be fairly significant seeing how much candidates spend on setting up these headquarters in Iowa alone. I have been told a lot of different numbers on how much a single candidate will spend on a campaigning headquarters for a campaign. I'm guessing that I am just not a very persuasive guy when it comes to things like this. I'd much rather go to a rally and be persuaded.
Today we went to a Hillary Clinton rally to hear Bill Clinton speak. We thought that we could get the best seats there like we had done at every other rally this week but everyone there beat us to it. We waited for Bill to come out and I observed the types of people that looked to be supporting Hillary. They were much more presentable than the Edwards or Obama crowds. They weren't wearing suits or anything but the gave the appearance of a little more luxury. This was a generalized look of course, I have very little idea as to the social and economical make up of the Hillary Clinton supporters. When Bill finally came out to speak to us the crowd really went crazy. It was a lot different from the other candidates who all hold the possibility to be president seeing the former President of the United States. Bill began speaking as to his wifes policy and her campaign. Bill spoke of the issues concerning the current presidential administration. He told us what he believed was wrong and what he thought could be done to fix it. He talked about the massive budget deficit that had been created even after he had taken stringent measures to ensure that the budget was managed in his eight years in office. He said that this was a major problem because it kept other nations from seeing us as reliable spenders or loaners. He also talked about education system and the failures of the “No Child Left Behind” bill. He briefly explained how the system worked and why it was fundamentally wrong and then he shared his ideas on the way education should be in America. He supported teachers rights and better teacher training and pay. More government money given to the schools and less emphasis on standardized testing. He shared with the crowd several stories that he believed exemplified Hillary's ability and compassion. He spoke of the volunteer work that Hillary did while in law school. When she pursued negligent and abusive parents and helped bring aggressive legislation to shield children from such horrors. She helped bring around change in a time of uncertainty among lawmakers and judiciaries due to the edginess of this issue. Bill used this story to make Hillary look aggressive yet compassionate, a champion of the little guy. He told us how and why she took these cases and the strong moral character she showed by doing so. Bill lauded Hillary's ability to lead and to negotiate with other foreign leaders. He mentioned all of the issues that she undertook while serving as the First Lady of both Arkansas and the United States of America. He spoke of her involvement with issues as broad as nationwide health care and the outcomes that she encountered while undertaking this issue. He claimed that Hillary faced failure and defeat while dealing with this issue and that she showed her character as a leader by rebounding from these setbacks. I think that from seeing this rally I gain a little bit more trust in Hillary's leadership and problem solving abilities. I think that she is a very well qualified and proven leader that could help accomplish many different things for our country. However, Hillary's leadership has never been in question to me. I feel that with Hillary it is her character in general that I cannot trust. She has to many connections to special interests and is all to familiar with the inner workings of Washington. I don't really like the idea of electing someone like this because I believe that this Caucus has a very new and rare opportunity to alter the workings of the American political system. A candidate that choses not to accept any soft money, PAC's or other large corporate donations is much more beneficial in my eyes. They have a bit of genuineness that is not present in Hillary's campaign.
Today I went to the John Edwards rally at the Memorial Union. Since I volunteered yesterday at the John Edwards campaign headquarters so I was able to use my charm and procure the best seat in the house which happened to be right next to the future First Lady herself, Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards. Mrs. Edwards has been a very inspirational figure in to my family and me over the past few years so it was a dream to be able to not only meet with her but actually hold a conversation with her. As soon as I noticed that the seat next to me was reserved for her I started to get anxious and jittery. When she came in and sat next to me I froze and didn't say anything for a few seconds, then I managed to profess my love for her like a middle-schooler with a crush. She acted flattered and gave me a hug. * blush * Throughout her husband's speech she kept whispering things to me and putting her hand on me. Now I'm not going to rush to any conclusions but I really think that there is some magic between us.
As for John's speech... John Edwards did a very good job addressing the questions and issues that he has surrounded his campaign with. I keep hearing people whine because he is giving a basically identical speech most of the time but he of all the candidates has one of the most reassuring and informative speeches. He spoke of the budget deficit and the problems it causes our nation. He gave different ways in which the budget could be managed. He also gave a major address concerning the medical insurance situation that the United States is faced with. This seemed to be very popular among the middle-class and working-class audience. He said that it was a complete embarrassment that so many go uninsured and untreated in the United States. Senator Edwards ideas on Medicare seemed a little radical and seemed to push some away until he properly explains the plans. After the speech someone said that they opposed his view on universal health care. They felt that he would implement a system of universal health care. However, in his speeches, John explains his ideas and they seem much more feasible. It is not really universal health care, it is just an employer-based health care system much like the one that has been used for years with more measures in place to push employers to supply it. I really liked the speech that John Edwards gave.
After the speech was given, John took questions. He went around and asked about ten people to give him questions. Most of the questions seemed strange and not to be very important issues but they were answered all the same. One of the things that I liked was when Mr. Edwards was asked about participating in debates featuring lesser known candidates, he just said “No,” he would not approve of it. Even though the question is not exactly a policy question, I liked the fact that he held a belief and stated it to the man instead of giving a vague wishy-washy answer.
There was so much that I learned on this trip. The whole caucus process now makes so much more sense than it did from just reading about it in text books. Although my candidate did not win, being able to experience this process was so fun and educational at the same time. Meeting the people that I met and not just the candidates, but the staffers and other volunteers was so fun. Learning from them and observing how they worked was such a great experience, I really learned a lot and know that I picked the right major.
I still think that the media corrupts the process on a national level, but I think that the average Iowan really makes a point of attending the events so that the overall winner in the state is first for a reason. The media may affect the opinions of Iowans, but many of those Iowans have taken the time to see at least their first choice candidate in person. While, at a national level many citizens don’t have the opportunity to do this and may base their decision primarily on what the media presents. The first place candidates in Iowa haven’t simply won because the media has chosen to paint them in the best light; they’ve won because the people of Iowa, who have taken time to participate in the political process, have selected them. In a country where it is difficult to get even half of the voting age population to the polls is it really that bad that Iowans, who seem to participate more, are not that representative of the US as a whole?
On many occasions I found myself impressed by the character of the people in Iowa. Overall they were friendly and politically competent. They certainly turned out in large numbers at the caucus I attended. That event was predicted to have around 200 voters, but ended up having slightly over 400 people in attendance. This election process has really motivated people to participate. The ideal type of voter, in my opinion, regardless of party affiliation, would be well informed and excited about the process. Iowa seemed to brimming with my “ideal type” of voter. In that aspect I think that Iowa is a fine place to start the nomination process.
I also really like the caucus process. Often, people vote for the candidate that they think has the best ability to win overall, or the “lesser of two evils” candidate. However, I think the caucus process allows people to, at least initially, vote with their conscience and see if they can gain viability. If they cannot, then they have a second opportunity to choose a candidate that has or could gain viability. The process is exciting and it made me wish Indiana had a similar process (and was a little earlier in the game).
After a great week in Iowa my opinions about the caucus have definitely changed. I like the process a little more and after seeing the level of participation and knowledge of Iowan citizens I trust their overall judgment. But, maybe that’s just because my candidate ended up winning there. J
The focus of the day today was to see the history of the caucus at the museum in Des Moines as well as see Caucus; the musical. The caucus exhibit was very interesting, although we had seen the exhibit first hand for the past week. I did enjoy seeing the old souvenirs from past election, seeing Dan Qualye signs, as well as Walter Mondale signs. The best part of the day was Caucus the musical; which was a political satire. I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy this musical at the beginning, but I absolutely loved it. The musical covered every facet of politics and poked fun at several politicians that we have become so accustomed to! The best part of the play was the imitation of the infamous Howard Dean scream: BYAHHH! I enjoyed the musical, and it was especially funny since we had seen the very actions that the candidates took over the past week. I enjoyed the musical and laughed througout; nice choice Dr. Williams, BYAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
I never got to see Mitt Romney speak, as he closed the event from the public and it was only a private event. Why a private event the day of the caucus?
The big event had come, the entire reason we were there, the Iowa Caucus. Relating more to the Republican Party, I decided to go to the Republican caucus, which was less eventful then the Democrat’s process. I wish I could have seen the Democrats, because the Republican caucus was largely uneventful. Each candidate had a volunteer from the crowd speak on their behalf for no more than 2 minutes. The ballots were passed out to the 500+ people packed inside a small Lutheran Church and the voters placed the names of the candidate of their choice. The ballots were secret; meaning no one else knew who a voter chose. The votes were counted, the winner was announced to be Mike Huckabee, and most of the people left. I was looking forward to a more eventful caucus, but the candidate of my choice one at this particular precinct and ended up winning Iowa. Lets take the momentum into New Hampshire Governor Huckabee!
Today, we met up with some Manchester College alumni to visit a museum about the history of the caucuses. There were several cutouts of all the different members of campaign staffs and members of the media. There are nearly hundreds of people who contribute to just one candidate’s success or failure. It was apparent Iowa takes pride in being one of the first indicators of who the next leader of the free world may be.
Later into the night we went to see Caucus: the Musical play written by John Robert Ford. I was a little skeptical on the possible enjoyment level, but I was wrong. It was HISTERICAL! It took place in a small town where four presidential candidates were targeting for votes. The song “Anything For A Vote” really hit the show off with a bang by explaining how the candidates were willing to do anything to get someone’s vote; even as much as to walk the family dog, pick up groceries, and trim a waitress’ bushes. This political satire simplified the whole caucusing procedure through one family’s struggle to pick their own candidate to support. Conflicting interest occurred and they family found themselves in shambles. But, to the rescue comes a quiet, reserved candidate that brings them back together. Overall, this show was a perfect event to cap off an incredible week in Iowa.