The Hawkeye State has the presidential nomination spotlight and the attention of GOP candidates as momentum builds for the January 3 Republican Party of Iowa Caucus, first in the nation. Candidates will assess results from the 1,774 precincts in the state and then presumably head to New Hampshire for the nation’s first presidential primary on January 10.
Iowa’s caucus model is a lesson in simplicity. Candidates do not have to file, apply or pay a fee to be included in the preference poll. However, candidates must work hard to get Iowans to write a name on the ballot—names aren’t printed. That’s one reason turnout is the single greatest factor in Iowa. Candidates like the Libertarian leaning Texas congressman Ron Paul, who has a solid ground game, will benefit from loyal supporters willing to brave winter weather to cast a vote.
Iowa’s voting process for the caucus is pretty simple. A voter shows his ID and writes the name of his candidate on a slip of paper.
Until the 1970s, Iowa held the caucuses in the middle of the primary calendar. The state bumped the process ahead after Democrats moved their primary to early January in 1972. Iowa has held caucuses since the 1840s.
Any registered Republican can participate in the Iowa GOP caucuses, and for those who haven’t managed to register, you can do so at the caucus. The Iowa Republican Party website provides complete details about the Caucus for candidates and voters.
The point of a caucus is pretty much the same as that of a primary—to determine which candidate the state’s voters support so delegates can be allotted. The caucus process is actually the beginning of decision-making that begins simply but becomes more complicated. In Iowa there’s a townhall type approach because voters caucus in person, have discussions and listen to speeches by surrogates of the candidates.
The Iowa Caucus begins with large or small gatherings held in public facilities or even private residences in each precinct. Votes are counted in public once voting concludes. A succession of delegate gatherings will follow at the county and state levels. The caucus is the first step in the nominating process.
Both the primary and the caucus designate delegates, and primaries usually have more complicated rules for candidates to get on the ballot.
Iowa’s caucus is the most well-known in the U.S. and some candidates who’ve won the most votes have gone on to become president. In 2008 President Barack Obama was the runaway winner for Democrats while former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee did the same in the Republican field. The closest anyone came to Huckabee in the 2008 Iowa Caucus was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who trailed the winner by 9 percent.
New Hampshire’s Primary provided a sharp contrast, however. Then Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won that state’s Primary vote in 2008.
McCain had been considered an underdog until that point, and Clinton and Obama were locked in a fairly heated battle that would likely have been covered far more dramatically had the two been Republicans. Legacy media in 2008 swung Democrat and played a key role in the election of Obama.
Although the nation’s eyes will be on Iowa and New Hampshire in early January, 2012, the only certainty at this point is that the GOP field still remains somewhat fluid and the nominee will oppose the Democrats’ candidate Obama in November.
Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign website shows the governor’s bus tour making stops in 42 Iowa cities in a 2-week period.
Current GOP frontrunner, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, ramped up his efforts ahead of Iowa by unveiling a new video hearkening to President George Washington’s ‘Victory or Death’ campaign on Christmas Day, 1776. The video is very well done and it’s likely that many Americans have no idea how fragile the revolutionary effort was at that time in history.
Otherwise, Gingrich is on the ground in Iowa with his Jobs and Growth bus tour making stops in numerous cities like Dubuque, Dyersville, Mason City and Sioux City.