Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Wouldn't Do This for Just Anybody

Six degrees. No, not "Six Degrees of John Edwards." Just plain old six degrees. That's the project low in Des Moines on January 1st. From January 1st through caucus day on the 3rd, the low each day is expected to be in the single digits (a toasty 4 degrees on caucus day). Did I mention that I really, really don't like cold weather, that despite growing up in the mountains, I am fully acclimated to the occasional 75 degree December day in Georgia? And, yet, a week from today, Daryl and I will be in Des Moines, joining an army of Edwards supporters from all over the country. In Iowa, where Edwards, Clinton and Obama are locked in a tight three-way race, boots on the ground make a difference. We wouldn't do this for just anybody, but we're doing it for John and Elizabeth Edwards-two of the finest people we know.

The highest temperature we expect to see is a balmy 22 degrees, on New Years Day. Yet, a couple hundred thousand or so Iowans will brave the cold and come out to one of the 1784 precincts to caucus. I have enormous respect for them, and we're going to Iowa to do whatever we can to help Edwards' supporters caucus. Look for reports from the field here, and video.(Santa left a brand new video camera under the tree.)

On the democratic side, caucusing bears little resemblance to primary voting. There's no "early caucusing" or "absentee caucusing." You have to actually show up, at a particular place, at a particular time. And, forget the privacy voting booths: it's more like neighbors getting together for coffee, discussing political issues and, incidentally, picking a presidential candidate. Iowans, after a sometimes lengthy discussion of issues and candidates, literally walk to the corner of the room, or in some cases the room of the house, designated for the candidate of their choice. For the tally, forget touch screens, punch cards or optical scans: they simply count noses. There are no hanging chads in Iowa, mind you. Finally, if your candidate of choice doesn't meet the viability threshold of 15% of those present at a particular precinct, then you'd better have a second choice in mind or be ready to go home. (Edwards is the first choice of most "second choicers, and this could prove pivotal on caucus night.) I suspect that there are very few "casual caucusers," and, again, this benefits Edwards. More of his supporters tend to be people who have actually caucused before, while both Clinton and Obama are relying heavily on first time caucus goers.

Determining the "winner" on the democratic side can require a calculator and a crystal ball. Caucus goers actually select delegates to a county convention who select delegates to a state convention who select the delegates to the national convention. For more detail on how the process works, check here.

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