Friday, January 04, 2008

Report from Precinct 69

As you no doubt now know, the 2008 Iowa Caucuses are history. I must say that my initial reactions to the results are pretty positive. Even though my man Edwards didn't end up on the top of the heap, it's just the kickoff. What's more important to me is who ended up on the bottom. I'm aware that might sound a bit uncharitable, but it's where I stand in this race and I offer no apologies for my position in what is necessarily a partisan process.

Barack Obama's post-Caucus speech was, I thought, electrifying. I feel much more positively toward him now, and honestly, during points in his speech, he brought tears to my eyes. Edwards' was definitely inspiring, though it was largely a recap of his campaign message. But it's a big, positive message, and I'm glad I stood for John Edwards this evening. And I will continue to support him as long as he remains in the race.

Anyway, you probably didn't come here for my ad lib post mortem analysis of the Caucuses, but I'll allow myself a wee bit in the overall analysis of my precinct ... I'm more interested in filing my report from Precinct 69 in Des Moines. So here goes ... our precinct has 750 registered voters. In 2004, 212 attended the Democratic Caucus to select the 9 County and State Convention Delegates. We met in the upper level of a middle school cafeteria, while Precinct 68 had the lower level.

We were in the same room this year. 480 people registered tonight. In a word, it was wall to wall people, mostly standing room only. Sardine cans came to mind. It was hot and extremely cramped, but people were incredibly civil (that damned Iowa gene!), in a great, energized mood and ready to caucus. At times some were even boisterous as the counts were announced. The mood you feel at one of these events is hard to characterize ... excitement, anxiety, elation ... you can really run the gamut depending on the outcomes. But given the overall cheering on the various sides, I'd say that almost everyone went away with a really energized positive feeling. At any rate we did ...

So here's the commentary on the photos. I was crammed in near the back of the room so I was able to capture a bit of the quasi claustrophobic feel ... and given that I'm just a guy of 5'9", it was not easy to get great shots. In fact, the last shot (of the hands) I got while holding up my hand to announce my number (at the end of the second count) and the camera in the other, shooting blindly in the air! Turned out pretty well, I thought!

Anyway, shot number 1 gives a view of the Caucus kickoff just before the first count. Here, the Caucus Chair is explaining the agenda and the basic rules concerning the counts, the viability threshold (it was 72) and the realignment period. It also should give you a good idea of just how jam packed the room was on all sides. (I was roughly in the center back, so there were groups to the left of me and Hillary on the Right, hehe).

The second picture was taken during the first count to determine viability. Here, the Precinct Captain is explaining how we will hold up our hands then count out loud and lower them to register our votes. It was chaotic, to say the least, but we easily passed the viability threshold with 82 votes.

I took the third shot during the realignment period, when the people in non-viable and uncommitted groups were allowed to make their second choices.
To alleviate some of the crush, the Chair allowed the Obama contingent to move into the hall during the realignment period. This lasted 30 minutes, during which people wheeled and dealed as much as they could given the limited mobility due to the crowded conditions.

And the final shot (which is actually my favorite, probably because I winged it and it turned out!) is near the end of the second count, where we picked up 18 more people from the realignment to give our group a total of 100. That earned us 2 delegates for Edwards to the convention.

Now for the nitty gritty, dweeby, wonky stuff!
Here are the results of the first count to determine viability:

Biden, 31
Clinton, 87
Dodd, 9
Edwards, 82
Gravel, 1
Kucinich, 11
Obama, 193
Richardson, 50
Uncommitted, 13

After the first count, the following groups were declared non-viable: Biden, Dodd, Gravel, Kucinich and Richardson.

After the 30 minute realignment period, the second count proceeded a bit less chaotically than the first and these were the results.

Clinton, 87
Edwards, 100
Obama, 209
Richardson, 72

Now, you're probably wondering how Richardson was declared non-viable after the first count, yet somehow ended up viable with 72 votes? Simple, during the realignment, the Richardson group hung tight and beat the bushes (so to speak) and came up with 22 more votes to become viable and earn 1 delegate for Bill Richardson.

The final delegate allocation:
Obama, 209 -- earned 4 delegates
Edwards, 100 -- earned 2 delegates
Clinton, 87 -- earned 2 delegates
Richardson, 72 -- earned 1 delegate

Now for a bit of analysis if you'll permit ... Richardson was the surprise of the night, as his group stuck together and gained 22 votes during the realignment period. Edwards picked up 18, Obama picked up 16, and Clinton picked up 0. It didn't strike me at the time, because I was so intent on getting the counts written down, but Clinton was unable to land any second choice caucus votes. I think this was telling ... aside from the minor Richardson miracle, the net winner on second choice votes was Edwards. Obama's showing was certainly respectable, but I found it fascinating that of the 65 people in the Uncommitted or Non-Viable groups, he only picked up 16. Edwards picked up 18, which to me shows he still has some strength out there ... Now that I give the numbers a bit more scrutiny, it appears that some people must have remained uncommitted (thus non-viable) or simply left during the realignment period. I'm going to have to give this some more thought, since these are only my rough numbers based on the announced counts. It's quite possible that some people came for a non-viable candidate and then left or remained Uncommitted, thus dropped, but the fact that keeps slapping me in the face is that Hillary had a net pick up of 0. Wow. So much for her electability.

Think about it. These were supposedly the "hardcore" Iowa Democrats in attendance, and none chose Hillary as their second choice. Though I couldn't get a reliable count on the number of crossovers (Independents and Rethuglicans -- and there were a fair number of both, including Fernymoss) I'd guess there were at least 30-40 in attendance. (And gee, we had a Rethuglican Caucus just down the hall ... hehe) None of them appeared to break for Hillary in the initial count or the realignment.

Granted, this was just one precinct out of some 1700+ in the entire state, but I think it shows something about Hillary's general (lack of) appeal. And these folks were the "hardcore" Democrats of our little slice of Des Moines. Of course, all the MSNBC pundits (except KO) were crowing later about the "Change" factor that drove the Caucuses tonight and they're not entirely wrong on singling that out. It remains to be seen in subsequent caucuses and primaries whether this will continue to drive the nomination contests. But the kickoff has begun, and it looks to be an exciting, if a bit bumpy, ride over the next month or so. We've done our part now, the airport was probably jammed with people on their way to New Hampshire tonight, and I'm soooo glad I don't need to go through there tomorrow (today!).

We had 5 messages on the machine today after work. Tomorrow, I predict 0. We've done our duty, now it's up to the rest of the country to keep the Change Train (as Edwards put it tonight) in motion. Ahhhhhhhh .... no more crammed mailbox ... we can answer the phone again without screening the calls. We feel good, even optimistic, about what happened tonight here in Iowa. Though I remain engaged in the campaign, I'm ready to take a break from politics for a while. The torch has been passed to the good people of New Hampshire and beyond. Don't mess it up, folks!

SIDEBAR: MSNBC was reporting (last I saw a few hours ago) that Democratic turnout was 236,000, up from roughly 120,000 in 2004. Rethuglicans were slightly over 100,000. The pleasant surprise for me in the Rethuglican Caucus (why not call it what it is? A STRAW POLL), was that Ron Paul came in with 10%, easily besting Rudy Giuliani at 3%. That's a result that warms the cockles of a Progressive's political heart. Of course, the big news was that Huckster-bee trounced Mittens 34% to 23% and the rest was, honestly electoral mush. That Democrats clearly came out in a 2-1 ratio compared to the Theocraticons also inspires hope that they won't be able to steal this one.

Biden and Dodd dropped out tonight, given their dismal showings. I really had come to like and respect Dodd the past month or two and hoped he'd have a better outcome. But I think he'd be wise to just keep his seat in the Senate, and run to replace Harry Reid as Majority Leader after the election when we will most likely pick up at least a few more seats. He's a solid guy, has restoring the Constitution and Habeus Corpus as top priorities, and really gave a good shot at it here. Biden? Well though I love the Joe of late (who could forget his quip that Giuliani's sentences "consisted of a noun, a verb and 9/11?") But I'll never forgive him his pushing that godawful Bankruptcy Reform Bill of 2005. Cabinet material maybe, but President, no. Besides, he's a gasbag. He certainly toned it down a bit recently, but he's still a gasbag. Richardson is a well meaning boob. He's got tons of experience (great stuff, too!) but he's a boob. Kucinich (my 2004 choice) is still a personal hero of mine, but his heart is obviously not in it this time. He hardly campaigned here this time around. He's pushing the debate in all the right directions, but I think he's still more valuable in the House, where Bob Wexler is helping push the movement for Impeachment of Cheney and Shrub.

And Mike Gravel? Bless his heart, the old curmudgeon ("You people scare me!") had a lone supporter tonight in our Caucus. I don't know where he went during the realignment, but I had to give him major props for speaking out. All in all, it was a great night at the Iowa Caucuses!


Third Rail said...

Check out this awesome Iowa Caucus post mortem analysis at

FARfetched said...

Great recap, IVG. Taking pix must have been fun from your viewpoint. One thing I like about my old digital camera is that the display swings out & swivels, so I can hold it above my head & see what I'm about to get.

Get some rest, and don't cringe when the phone rings anymore, OK? ;-)

maryb said...

great post IVG! Wow. The numbers last night were just amazing - 236,000 turnout. And that shows in the numbers that showed up in your precinct.

I really liked your analysis of Richardson's night - who would have thought his supporters would hang together and attract others like that.

A side note - I went to a mock caucus sponsored last night by the Dem party in my city - it was at a bar and combined watching the returns. Granted it didn't decide anything but it was interesting to do. And the most interesting things was that Hillary got absolutely no second choices. So your experience (which counted) is the same as my experience (which didn't).

Family Man said...

Thanks for doing this IVG. For a lot of us who have no clue, this explained a lot of what was going on.