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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Polls Irrelevant in Iowa - Today's Vote is What Counts

George Wenschhof

In Iowa, the caucus method of voting is unique and it is extremely difficult for a Poll to show support of a candidate. This is due to several factors including the ability of a voter to change his/her vote prior to recording the final tally.

The Iowa caucus, which resembles more of a town meeting, occurs in schools, libraries, community centers, and even private homes. Reportedly, the caucus begins at 7 pm and anyone who is not there on time is not allowed to participate. A previous designated (by the state) House Captain runs the caucus and records the final vote.

Once inside, votes are not cast in secret, but rather right out in the open for everyone to see. Voters are literally asked to go stand in one corner of the room to show support for their candidate.

Caucus attendees are informed that in order for a candidate to qualify for a delegate they must meet the 15% threshold level. So the first things that occurs after everyone has gone to their respective corners in the room is a head count to see if each candidate has received at least 15% of the vote.

If you are standing in a corner representing a candidate receiving less than 15% of the vote you are informed your vote will not count and you have the option of moving to another corner of the room to offer support for another candidate or to stay where you are realizing your vote will essentially be for naught.

Obviously, discussion ensues with voters attempting to persuade others to come vote for their candidate. This creates an incredible number of scenarios as to the final outcome of the vote. Supporters for a lower tiered candidate could dramatically alter the results by whom they ultimately decide to support.

For the Democrats, if after failing to reach the 15% threshold, who will a supporter of Senators Christopher Dodd (Conn.), Joseph Biden (Del.), Governor William Richardson (NM), and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Oh) choose to support? Will it be Senator Barack Obama (Ill.) or Senator Hillary Clinton (NY) or will former Senator John Edwards (NC) receive their vote?

Congressman Kucinich issued a press release Tuesday urging his supporters to vote for Senator Obama if he does not receive the 15% threshold. The rumors were flying late last night that Senator Biden and Governor Richarson were following Kucinich's lead and encouraging their supporters to change their vote to Obama if they failed to receive the needed 15% of the vote. It seems the "take no prisoners" approach of the Clinton campaign has not won her support from her fellow Democratic candidates.

This opportunity to discuss candidates and their positions after your first vote and then change your vote will dramatically alter the final outcome in Iowa.

It is estimated that only 25% and less than 150,000 of the registered 600,000 Democrats in Iowa will participate in the caucuses. The lengthy and open process is prohibitive to many voters. Those who do not have the time or would prefer to cast their vote in private will not attend. Past data has shown that a high percentage are older voters who are White with under age 30 voters representing less than 17% of the vote. Exit Polls from the 2004 Iowa caucuses also showed that 40% indicated they made up their mind as to who to vote for during the last week prior to the caucuses.

With so few voting in the Iowa caucuses, the candidate with the best ground organization has an advantage. Former Governor Howard Dean (Ver.) in 2004 was unable to duplicate the incredible support his campaign was receiving nationwide in Iowa. Although he swamped the state with volunteers from all over the country, he did not have an experienced organization on the ground.

Will Obama have students attend the caucuses in record numbers and will his enthusiastic support translate into winning numbers in Iowa? Or will the more seasoned and experienced campaigns of Edwards and Clinton prevail? What if a second tier candidate such as Richardson or Biden gains votes during the caucuses?

These questions will be answered soon as the votes are tallied tonight. Edwards has a good shot at finishing first and Clinton second due to experience in the state, with Obama finishing third. However, if Obama's campaign turns out his supporters and he receives the support of voters formerly supporting a second tier candidate who fails to receive the needed 15%, Obama will easily win Iowa.

A win or second place finish would give a much needed boost to the Edwards campaign. A third place finish by Clinton would seriously damage her effort and remove the inevitable veil she has tried to place on her campaign. If Obama finishes third, he will talk of all the attacks he received leading up to the Iowa caucus and continue his theme of the need for a change in Washington. All three of these candidates have sufficient campaign budgets and will stay in the race until Super Tuesday on February 5, 2008 when half of the states hold their primaries.

Next up is the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday January 8, 2008. In this state, registered Independents may vote in the primary by requesting either a Democrat or Republican ballot. More about this later......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Edwards actually doesn't have a sufficient budget to stay in until Super Tuesday. He took matching funds, but the FEC went out of commission before they could cut him the final check. So he's stuck with what he has in his account; he can't lend himself more than $50,000 and he faces spending caps in all the states.

Edwards is short on cash. If he finishes third or worse, I predict he'll drop of the election after New Hampshire.