To Iowa, With Love.

I don’t want to talk politics on this blog. However, I can’t stop myself.

I love all things political. Regardless of my party affiliation (I’m a registered Independent), I could watch cable news all day, read political blogs and news stories all night, and have poll numbers imported directly into my head at all hours… and be a very happy camper.

Some guys eat, breathe and sleep sports. Some women do the same with soap operas or reality shows. Lots of folks throw parties for the Super Bowl or watch the games every Sunday like a religion.

My religious experience comes on any Election Night. So this evening, you’ll find me in front of the television, flipping between stations, drinking every ounce of Iowa caucus coverage. I don’t have a dog in the fight or a pony in the race. There are some candidates I find interesting and other ones that I wonder how they’re running for President, let alone having already won some other office. My mind will be made up in November, based on who has survived the primaries and what state the country is in ten full months from now. Or if any third-party candidates appear viable…

But back to Iowa– there is no greater visible act of democracy in this country than the Iowa caucuses.

In January of 2004, a friend and I spent a few days in Davenport, Iowa. I was young and very idealistic and found a candidate that I truly believed in. And I haven’t believed in another one since. So we drove through the night to Davenport to volunteer for the campaign.

During the day, we knocked on doors. At night, we went to the riverboat casino and to nightclubs, staying out to all hours with other young volunteers from ours and rival campaigns. It was a blast! Never before and never again have I felt democracy and the youthful spirit of hope run through my veins so warmly.

On caucus night, we were stationed at the doors of one caucus location. We handed out papers promoting our candidate to the good residents of Iowa that were taking time out of a blustery cold January evening to participate in the Nation around them. Of course they didn’t care that we had driven 10 hours to their lovely state to encourage them to vote for our candidate– they hear the same sob story every four years.

However, living in Ohio, we would most likely not get the chance to vote for our candidate in mid-March unless he survived the caucus in January. That’s the only thing that doesn’t seem quite right about a widely-spread-out primary calendar. Other than that, watching a caucus should be on your Bucket List if you’re an avid political junkie like myself.

Iowa Democrats have different rules than Iowa Republicans. After listening to a designated volunteer give a short speech about their preferred candidate, the Republicans write their candidate’s name down on a white sheet of paper. The results are counted and sent in. Pretty straight-forward.

The Democrats, however, make you physically support your candidate. After hearing from the candidate’s designated volunteers give reasons to vote for him/her, each candidate’s supporters move to different given sections of the room, under a banner for their preferred candidate. If a given candidate does not have 15% of the total people participating, that candidate is not considered viable. Then, his or her supporters are given the opportunity to join any of the other viable candidates.

If supporters of a particular campaign are persuasive, this can play a big part in who wins the caucuses, because the other folks in the room (your neighbors, basically!) can cajole and persuade you to join their candidate.

If the Republicans followed these same rules, tonight’s results could be quite interesting.   Just a quick imaginary scenario that could happen: I can easily picture Ron Paul and Mitt Romney each getting the required 15% at most caucus locations. However, supporters of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are all quite splintered. It would not be surprising if they all got 12% each, give or take a few percentage points.

Now, these supporters could each abandon their candidate and choose to join the Romney or Paul groups. Or they could decide to band together so that a “conservative” candidate would emerge to win the caucuses and thus set up a longer primary battle with Romney. Depending on which candidate had the more persuasive supporters in the room, you could see the Perry and Gingrich camps band together with the Santorum folks, making Santorum come out a clear winner of that particular caucus site.

Of course, this is all pure speculation and dream-land-type stuff, because the Republicans do not have these caucus rules. But it is fun in my little politically-obsessed mind to dream of all the possible outcomes.

What will happen tonight? My best guess is that Mitt Romney pulls it off by a few percentage points. Ron Paul will not do as well as polls indicate, yet still come in second. Rick Santorum comes in third place. And Rick Perry will do better than expected. Michele Bachmann will drop out after the race tonight, although Perry and Gingrich will play through South Carolina.

However, with a Mitt Romney win in Iowa, he’s almost a sure bet to win New Hampshire. And thus begins his fast dance to the nomination. Although he will lose South Carolina, Romney will carry Florida large and roll through Super Tuesday, winning every contest that day.

I love making political predictions. In November of 2010, I made lots of senatorial predictions and came out about 50% correct. So we will see how my crystal ball plays out tonight. Whether I am correct or not, one thing is certain: I will have the time of my life watching the results and the subsequent commentary. The time of my life until next election night, that is.




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