Iowa Caucuses a Whole Other Animal

AUSTIN – Iowa Republicans who want to help Gov. Rick Perry move past his gaffes or give Texas Congressman Ron Paul a showing that pundits can’t ignore don’t have an easy row to hoe.

But neither do those who support any of the other presidential candidates. Participating in the Jan. 3 caucuses requires a commitment beyond that of other states’ dash-in-and-out primary voters, requiring Iowans to head out for an evening meeting, snowstorms be damned.

“If you work second shift, you can’t participate. If the car breaks down, you can’t participate. If the babysitter doesn’t show, you can’t participate. If there’s a blizzard and you can’t get there, you can’t participate,” said Dennis Goldford, professor of politics at Drake University in Des Moines and co-author of The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: The Making of a Media Event. “It’s a 7 o’clock sharp time.”.

That’s why the caucuses have the capacity to surprise, why campaign organization is important and perhaps why Iowans want more than many other states get: one-on-one time to shake hands, ask questions and get a measure of the candidate. While many 2012 GOP candidates haven’t yet dedicated the time on the ground that Iowans expect, the state’s getting attention as the caucuses loom – particularly from candidates lagging in the polls.

rick-perry-iowaPerry’s doing a 42-city bus tour. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s visiting all 99 counties by bus in 10 days. Former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum already has campaigned hard here – visiting all 99 counties by last month – and isn’t letting up.

Santorum recently showcased the caucuses’ nature with a painstaking description of a successful campaign stop: “I think we got 35 folks to sign up this morning for us in Greene County, and the last caucus I think there were not even 400 people who showed up the caucus. That’s a pretty good day. You’re not going to see an explosion in the polls because I signed up 30 people in Greene County, but on caucus day, those are the folks who are coming.”

About 119,000 Republicans participated in the 2008 caucuses, or about 20 percent of the party, Goldford said. He called it “simply a straw poll,” but it’s one that sets the stage for the rest of the race and can weed out those with a poor showing.

That’s why candidates need not only support, but motivated support. And that’s why a candidate like Paul, who has drawn enthusiastic Iowa crowds, could clean up.

“The lower the pool, the more Ron Paul becomes a factor,” Goldford said, “because his people are coming out, come hell or high water or space invasion.”

The marrying kind

John Crotty, a 26-year-old law student, had an eye-catching sign outside of a recent Des Moines forum attended by candidates including Newt Gingrich: “No marriage for gays, but unlimited marriages for Newt.” The event came in the midst of finals a bit over a week ago, and Crotty said, “I should be studying.” But he thought it was important to make the statement: “I feel there’s a little hypocrisy on display.”

Happy holidays

Perry, who’s putting his Christian faith out front in his campaign, is getting razzed over a family greeting that broke from the staunch keep-Christ-in-Christmas crowd. The 2003 photo posted on his office Web site wished Texans (gasp) “Happy Holidays.” Perry also cited the “holiday season” in a 1992 greeting while ag commissioner and again in a 2008 video. Perry campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier noted that Perry has quoted Scripture and said “Merry Christmas” on his cards, adding, “The governor has never been shy about celebrating Christmas and talking about his faith. Nothing to see here.”

Source: Houston Chronicle


  1. Thomas LJ

    The Iowa caucus is all about the second choice. All of the supporters of weak candidates will have to abandon them for a viable second choice. That is where organization matters. Romney will cruise to victory.

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