Saturday, December 08, 2007

Rebuque, Iowa

Hillary wins or does not win the Iowa Caucus. Either way, unless she spontaneously self-destructs or is struck by some horrible tragedy, she is heading for the nomination. The other candidates are merely providing side-show entertainment while hoping the gods intervene to destroy her candidacy.

So, What's a Caucus?

Democrats Try to Spur Iowa Turnout

December 8, 2007; Page A4
Rebuque, Iowa

In the sprint to the first-in-the-nation caucus on Jan. 3, the three top Democratic candidates, running in close to a dead heat, are marshaling armies of surrogates to help get out the vote and boost participation in a Byzantine process that has never attracted more than 6% of the electorate.

While the three front-runners -- Mr. Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards -- are all employing many staff members to get out the vote, the organizational edge may go to Mr. Obama. With 37 local offices and nearly 300 employees, he has assembled the largest ground staff the state has ever seen.

Organizationally, the Obama strategy was on view this week in Cedar Falls, where the candidate stood on a makeshift stage in a campus gymnasium and pleaded with 1,200 students at the University of Northern Iowa to give up a portion of their winter vacation and caucus for him.

"Every four years, students say they're going to come out and caucus and they never do. I'm only going to win if all of you caucus," Mr. Obama said.

"How do we caucus?" a student shouted.

Fair question. One of the most important nominating contests is also one of the most complex. Voting in Iowa has proved a turnoff to college students in the past. Fewer than 5,000 eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 turned out in 2004, when a record 124,000 people caucused, the state Democratic Party says.

Coaxing voters to caucuses is difficult. Unlike primary voting, caucusing can take hours, often starting with party business before any decisions. Democratic candidates are subject to a so-called viability rule; if they don't garner at least 15% of the votes in a precinct, their supporters must choose their second-favorite candidate.

Mr. Edwards may enjoy an edge on caucus day because polls show that more of his supporters have been though the caucus process before. Pollsters judge these "chronic" voters as more reliable.


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