We are under a week away from the Iowa Caucus and there is a lot of buzz on ATS about it. Who will win, can , does it matter who wins, how many
delegates does the winner get (funny answer to this one below).
But really...who actually knows how the Iowa Caucus works. It really isn't a straight forward or simple process. And actually...it doesn't even
mean anything...the "winner" actually doesn't "win" anything.
So let's look at the process of the Iowa Caucus.
First off, what is a Caucus and how does it differ from a Primary?
a closed meeting of a group of persons belonging to the same political party or faction usually to select candidates or to decide on policy; also
: a group of people united to promote an agreed-upon cause
Primary vs Caucus:
Well, there is no good short and quick answer for this. I'm not going to copy and paste a lot of external content here, but here are some links that
discuss it. For a short and dirty answer...a Caucus is a meeting and a Primary is more like a regular election vote. But here are some links that
explain it in more detail.
Ok, seems simple enough...so let's get into the details of the Iowa Caucus.
•Iowans have used the caucus process since Iowa became a state in the 1840s.
•All 1,774 precincts in Iowa hold a Republican caucus.
•Caucus sites are usually in public buildings such as schools or libraries, but churches, private residences and other spaces are used as well.
•In Presidential years, the most notable item on the caucus agenda is the Republican Presidential Preference Poll.
•In most precincts, the Presidential Preference Poll is a simple, secret-ballot vote. Republican voters from the precinct are each given one ballot
to write down their preference for the Republican presidential nominee.
•Presidential candidates do not have to file, apply or pay a fee to be included in the preference poll. It is a candidates responsibility to
convince voters to write their name down on a ballot. In most cases, counties will hand out blank pieces of paper for Republicans to write down their
preference for the nominee.
•Before the poll, each campaign is allowed to have one surrogate or volunteer speak on behalf of his or her candidate. One volunteer or surrogate
per campaign is also allowed to observe the counting of the ballots after the poll. The results are then announced to the caucus attendees before
being reported to the Iowa GOP.
The primary function of the caucus is to conduct party business. Official business of the precinct caucus includes electing members to the county
Republican central committee, electing delegates, alternates and junior delegates to the county convention, electing precinct people to any committees
for the County Convention and discussing and submitting platform issues to the County Convention.
What time do the caucuses begin? All caucuses begin at 7 P.M. Central time on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. It is advisable, however, to arrive at your
precinct site before 7 P.M.
Here is a little more information at this link, most of the same, but presented a little differently.
Again...seems simple enough...but there are some details in there that are very important.
Notice where the talk about the "Presidential Preference Poll"...this is most likely what everyone will hear about the night of the Caucus. This is
what all the news stations will be reporting and the results of this will show who "won" the Caucus.
Now...notice a little further down where it says the primary function of the Caucus is for official party business...and one of those items is
"electing delegates". This is what is really important...because what it doesn't say in the above article is that the Presidential Preference Poll
is NON-BINDING....meaning it doesn't mean anything.
So, what does the "winner" of the Iowa Caucus get....absolutely nothing. This is the funniest part about the Caucus...no one wins any delegates
Guess how many of these delegates will be selected in Iowa on January 3. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Want to know what really happens in Iowa in January? Not much. A few thousand people who care enough about politics to spend an evening at their local
library or church basement will decide who gets to attend the state GOP's county conventions in March.
They'll also participate in a non-binding presidential preference vote. ("Non-binding" means the state's national convention delegates do not have
to vote according to the preferences of caucus participants.)
And that's about it.
So what really happens at the Iowa Caucus??? Really only two important things happen.
First, they have a non-binding Presidential Preferential Poll. This is what you will see on January 3rd...the results of this will show who "won"
Second, people at the Caucus will also elect precinct delegate that will go to the county convention.
After that, those precinct delegates will go to the country convention and elect county delegates, they will go to the state convention, which will
elect state delegates to go to the national convention. This process...is not clear...I can't find any solid information on who or how these other
delegates are elected.
This is from Wikipedia...so take it with a grain of salt.
Delegates from the precinct caucuses go on to the county conventions, which choose delegates to the district conventions, which in turn selects
delegates to the Iowa State Convention. Thus, it is the Republican Iowa State Convention, not the precinct caucuses, which selects the ultimate
delegates from Iowa to the Republican National Convention. All delegates are officially unbound from the results of the precinct caucus, although
media organizations either estimate delegate numbers by estimating county convention results or simply divide them proportionally.
Now, here is the kicker. The Iowa delegates that go to the convention are not bound by the Caucus vote. So do you remember who won the Iowa Caucus
last year??? Mike Huckabee...right???
Remember Mike Huckabee's big win in the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses? The party's eventual nominee, John McCain, won all of Iowa's delegate votes at the
But really, I just wanted to make people aware that the Iowa Caucus is a non-binding poll. No delegates are awarded and the winner doesn't really
win anything except a media exposure. And most importantly, the Presidential Preference Poll is not the vote that selects the delegates...but it is
the result you will see Jan. 3rd.
I think the CNN article linked above said it the best.
The Iowa caucuses: a media game