Thursday, January 03, 2008

Caucus Report

Lisa and I went to our precinct caucus tonight, our first in University Heghts. The town of University Heights is a single precinct. There are nearly 1000 people in town. There were 287 Democrats at our caucus this evening. Not too bad a turn out.

The large crowd was expected, we met outside city limits at West High in Iowa City, in the cafeteria. There were eight other precincts meeting at the school. We met in the cafeteria. Other precincts were in the band room, the library, and class rooms.

When we came in nearly every candidate had a portion of the room marked out and there were treats at each table, something I’d never seen at our old precinct.

We are a highly educated precinct, many doctors and PhD’s live in town. Given that you wouldn’t think it would be nearly so hard to count us all. Everyone was given a numbered card when registering. Our precinct chair then wanted to count everyone to double check that the number was correct. At this point my neighbor Mike looked at me and said, “You realize these are the same people that are going to be in charge if the Bird Flu ever breaks out. We’re all doomed.” The group shouted that down and proposed just accepting the number count from the cards, so our count was 287, and apparently 45 minutes that were used in 2004 were saved.

At 7:00 each presidential candidate was allowed to have someone speak for them for up to two minutes each. After that it was announced that each group would have to have at least 44 members to be viable. We then broke into preference groups.

I decided to back the same person I did in 2004 and looked for a Kucinich group (he was the only candidate without a sign anywhere) I found the six other hardy souls backing Dennis. At the end of the first session here were the group totals:

Obama 115
Edwards 49
Clinton 47
Biden 32
Richardson 30
Dodd 8
Kucinich 7

Then it was announced that there were 4 total delegates to the county convention that would come from our precinct. Every viable candidate would get at least one delegate. The groups could discuss and move if they wished.

We decided to go to Obama as Kucinich had mentioned. The Richardson, Dodd and Biden groups tried to figure out a way to merge and become viable, but it didn’t work so at the end of the second round we had our final standings:

Obama 144 2 delegates
Edwards 53 1 delegate
Clinton 51 1 delegate
Uncommitted 35

So the caucus groups selected delegates to the county convention, accepted resolutions and pretty much finished.

I am a great believer in this process of getting out and talking to your neighbors, listening to others and making decisions. I also really understand that we in Iowa don’t pick the winners, but we do pick the losers. I think the best quote ever regarding the caucus was from Bruce Babbit after finishing 5th in 1988, “I was in it right up to the beginning...”


Jimbo said...

That's interesting that your precinct mirrored the whole state's final totals.

The C-SPAN coverage last night was from Des Moines (Democratic) and Carroll (Republican). It was interesting to go back and forth.

The Republican caucus, for all the vaunted "efficiency" and "rationality" of the rules, was truly boring (except for the little girl with the really deep voice who sang a kickass version of that "Proud to be an American Cause at Least I Know I'm Free" song). It was much more interesting to watch the Democratic caucus as people discussed/cajoled in the viability sweepstakes. The Richardson people were working it hard!

The whole counting thing seemed like the biggest stumbling block. You'd think we'd have all that figured out by now. In the C-SPAN precinct, they finally figured out a good system--everyone in an affinity group raised their hand, then somebody started by saying "One," and pointed to another person, who then said "Two," and so on. It only took an hour to figure that out.

Mike said...

Well for counting within a group the Obama folks just went to the far end of the cafeteria and made people walk through the doors into the lobby. Two people were stationed at the door each one counting as people filed through one at a time. Lisa and I have mentioned at EVERY caucus we've been to that if the Johnson County Democrats had any sense they'd put an elementary teacher as every precinct chair.

The thing I heard today from people at our old precinct (Iowa City 20) was how rude the students were, and didn't want to engage in any dialogue. They didn't even do a third round of preferences. The comment was it felt like all the bad parts of football tailgating!