Saturday, January 5, 2008

Iowa Caucuses

The just concluded Iowa caucuses are another strange and antiquated part of our U. S. presidential election system. Congratulations to the two winners, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. Since 1972 the caucuses have been recognized as the first step in the presidential nomination process for both Democrats and Republicans, although their results have never been a very accurate predictor of which candidate will win the nomination.

From 1984 to 1996 the winners in Iowa did not go on to win their parties' nomination, although they did in 2000 and 2004, the latter, of course, when George W. Bush and John Kerry won.

It is strange that traditionally the Iowa caucuses are perceived as so important to the national prospects of the presidential candidates After all, Iowa is one of the smallest states with only 7 electoral votes and only 3 million population, less than 1% of the U. S. population. Only 359,000 Iowa voters showed up at the caucuses or neighborhood meetings to vote for their favorite candidates, just about 12% of the state's population. Many didn't show up because they were working, were impeded by poor wintry weather, or were traveling in other states and couldn't vote because absentee ballots are not allowed. Half a dozen California cities have a greater population than the number who voted in Iowa.

Yet the caucus winners have apparently gained a lot of political momentum as they resume campaigning in New Hampshire for the nation's first primary election on Tuesday. Political analysts have claimed that nomination prospects for third place Hillary Clinton and second place Mitt Romney have been materially hurt, and the widely respected and experienced U. S. senators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd have apparently already dropped out of the race due to poor caucus placings. Like many other aspects of our presidential election system, it's not easy to make sense of it all.


aglimme said...

One thing I've been thinking about is that there is some use to having a couple of smaller states have their primaries first. I think it is useful to have more "retail" style politicking going on. The thing that I think really bothers me is how the media keep blowing everything out of proportion. I think the idea that any one race or vote in a primary, particularly the first couple will decide the out come is a bit ridiculous.

Grace said...

This was a very interesting and informative posting. I was under the misconception that the Iowa caucases were very important, and was surprised to learn that Iowa only has 7 electoral votes. I'm looking forward to learning more about the electoral process from you as the presidental election system continues.

Thomas said...

The media is built to find the most attention getting story. We as a society are gullible enough to swallow most everything they tell us. Case in point, you can probably find a study that tells you apple's are the perfect fruit and will extend your life by 100 years and then find another study that tells you apples have been known to cause cancer. Political coverage is the same. You hear what you want to or what is shoved down your throat the most.

JimT said...

I never understood why the Iowa caucuses are perceived to be so predictive of upcoming elections. Is it purely historical? Another example was Bush (daddy) who beat Reagan in the 1980 Iowa caucus, but then lost the nomination. It seems to be as Thomas said, just something for the media to focus on. It will be interesting to see how it pans out in the upcoming months.

Micheline said...

Well said.