Eyes on Iowa For Democrats

des moines, iowa» More than 40 years ago, a sched­ul­ing quirk vaulted Iowa to the front of the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing process, and ever since, most White House hope­fuls have de­voted enor­mous time and money to a state that oth­er­wise would get lit­tle at­tent

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Scott McFetridge

How it started

For most of Iowa’s his­tory, ac­tivists have gath­ered in the win­ter to deal with pol­i­tics, but no one out­side the state paid at­ten­tion un­til 1972, when Democrats es­tab­lished their cau­cuses in Jan­uary. That made the party’s pres­i­den­tial pref­er­ence vote the first in the na­tion, and can­di­date Ge­orge McGovern, en­cour­aged by his cam­paign man­ager Gary Hart, took ad­van­tage by cam­paign­ing in Iowa and fin­ish­ing a stronger-than-ex­pected se­cond place. McGovern’s show­ing helped pro­pel him to the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, and four years later it did the same for a lit­tle-known gov­er­nor from Ge­or­gia, Jimmy Carter.

The Repub­li­cans joined Democrats with the early cau­cus date in 1976. Since then, Iowa has drawn more can­di­date vis­its and me­dia at­ten­tion with each cam­paign.

How it works

The Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can par­ties hold their cau­cuses at the same time — this year start­ing at 7 p.m. CST on Feb. 1 — at spots in all of Iowa’s 99 coun­ties. Cau­cuses are held in each of the state’s 1,681 precincts, but the num­ber of meet­ing sites is smaller be­cause some precincts share build­ings. Democrats will meet at about 1,100 spots, and Repub­li­cans will gather at nearly 900. Vot­ers from some small precincts meet in homes, but most join in schools, veter­ans’ halls and other large venues.

While the par­ties hold their cau­cuses si­mul­ta­ne­ously, they op­er­ate dif­fer­ently and their re­sults have dif­fer­ent mean­ings.

When Democrats at­tend a cau­cus, they break into groups that pub­licly de­clare their sup­port for a can­di­date. If the num­ber of peo­ple in any group is less than a 15 per­cent vi­a­bil­ity thresh­old of those at­tend­ing the cau­cus, they typ­i­cally can ei­ther choose not to par­tic­i­pate or can join an­other can­di­date group. That leads to some in­tense woo­ing and some­times con­fu­sion as can­di­date rep­re­sen­ta­tives try to per­suade oth­ers to join them and pre­vent their sup­port­ers from switch­ing to an­other top can­di­date.

Once the groups are de­ter­mined, the num­ber of “votes” is de­ter­mined by run­ning the num­ber who sup­port each can­di­date through a for­mula that de­ter­mines fi­nal votes based on a county-by-county anal­y­sis of Demo­cratic per­for­mance in the last gov­er­nor and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Be­sides de­ter­min­ing which can­di­date wins the cau­cuses, the re­sults are the first step in de­ter­min­ing del­e­gates who are ex­pected to sup­port can­di­dates at the na­tional con­ven­tion.

For Repub­li­cans

For Repub­li­cans, it’s a much sim­pler mat­ter of giv­ing sup­port­ers of each can­di­date a chance to give a brief speech, then pri­vately mark­ing bal­lots. The bal­lots are counted, then com­mu­ni­cated by a lo­cal cau­cus or­ga­nizer to the state party via a new smart­phone app, de­vel­oped for both par­ties. Even though it’s a vote, it’s not bind­ing for Repub­li­cans, who de­ter­mine del­e­gates at county and district con­ven­tions later in the year.

For­mer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin en­dorses Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump dur­ing a rally Tues­day at Iowa State Univer­sity in Ames. Mary Altaffer, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.