Iowa Caucus summary

Friday, January 4. 2008

As a first-time democratic party caucus-goer, I found the whole affair fascinating. I had changed my party affiliation from Republican to Democrat before the 2004 election, but had not participated that year. This year, the whole slate of Republican presidential candidates were so repulsive (Slick Mitt, Fruity Rudy, “God is on my side” Mike, LawnOrder Thompson) that I had absolutely no temptation to switch back to Republican.
In my precinct, about 180 attended. After some procedural announcements, we broke up into groups for the respective candidates; as people had arrived, some of the more active persons tried to attract them into sections of the auditorium, so even before the meeting had started, one side of the auditorium was pretty much the Clinton supporters, the other side the Obama supporters, and the middle the Edwards, Richardson, Biden, Dodd supporters. There were no Kucinech supporters.
For “sorting out” time, Edwards supporters went into a nearby large meeting room; Richardson supporters to another meeting room, and, with much lower numbers, Biden and Dodd supporters assumed a place in the halls.
Our Richardson group started with about 19 members; but to achieve “viability” and earn a delegate, we needed 29. We picked up the Biden and Dodd supporters, but that still left us five short of earning a delegate. A couple of fellows from our group tried to negotiate for somebody to move from Clinton or Obama to our group. That would have given Richardson a delegate, Edwards 2 delegates, and Obama and Clinton 4 delegates each. But there was no give in either group; the Edwards group offered us the opportunity to name a member of our group as a delegate to the county convention (this is not the same thing as a delegate for a candidate).
Accepting that this was about the best we could do, our group, now numbering 24, joined the Edwards group en masse. This gave the Edwards group 60 members. The Obama and Clinton groups outnumbered us by only 2 or 3 members. As the fractions worked out, of the 11 delegates our precinct would elect, Obama got 4, Clinton got 4, and Edwards got 3.
Had some of the Obama or Clinton supporters (just 5 or 6) joined the Richardson supporters, the count probably would have been still Obama 4, Clinton 4, Edwards 2 and Richardson 1. But it was not to be.
Much was made of the supposedly “uncommitted” persons going into the caucuses. There were two (an older couple) who adamantly stayed uncommitted, saying they just wanted to see how the caucus worked. Those who came and started with either the Obama or Clinton or Edwards camps, though, seemed immovable once we started counting supporters. As Richardson supporters, and especially the Biden and Dodd supporters, the MSM (MainStream Media) had told us for weeks that we were a minority, so we went into the caucus mentally prepared to be disillusioned, and to have to move to another candidate.
Some further thoughts: The Obama campaign had a lot of young energetic supporters calling on people, getting signs out, getting people to come to the “meet and greet” events. The Clinton campaign attracted by media coverage and name recognition– some enthusiastic supporters, but a distinctly different, and older, group. The Edwards supporters were more difficult to read. I was never contacted by phone for the Edwards campaign, and if I received direct mail, I do not recall it.
Richardson, Biden, and Dodd are all good, competent men, and would have been good candidates and good Presidents (who knows, may still be?). But there is a certain charisma, a “presence”, a speaking style, an enthusiasm, that Obama has that these veterans lack. And the media reporters are influenced by it, and their coverage is influenced by it, and a feedback loop develops where one candidate gets more media coverage because he gets more media coverage.
Some television commentators seemed surprised that Iowa voters, stereotypically characterized as WASP (white anglo-saxon protestant) would give such strong support to a (at least partially) black man. My observation would be that the country may have moved beyond the view of the commentators. Sure, we may notice skin color, but that will not prevent us from listening to what a person has to say. We’ve grown up, and it’s not the 1960’s any more. In my opinion, Obama could kill his campaign by bringing in Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, both of whom represent an era that has passed. The problems of the black community now are economic and educational, and race is seen as a strong factor because it correlates so much with the SES (socio-economic status). I don’t want to imply that I think race is totally a non-issue, but it is far less of an issue than the commentators seem to think.
Well, we’ve had our say; now let’s see what the remainder of the political campaigns brings.

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