Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Uncommitted Option

The Uncommitted Option

Most uncommitted supporters this late in the game are either the genuinely undecided or party leaders who want to maintain neutrality. But Ed Flaherty of Iowa City hopes the Uncommitted group reaches viability and helps take the nomination process to the national convention.

"Having the Democratic convention truly decide the nominee takes away five months of sliming and smearing that the Republicans intend to focus on our nominee," said Flaherty, "and will make the process of selecting a Democratic nominee a truly national effort between March and August." With the Republican field in flux, Flaherty noted, "Who knows, maybe the Republican process may also have to go to convention."

"It's somewhat oxymoronic to be passionate about being uncommitted, but I believe it's the right place for me, and should be a welcome spot for other fervent supporters of a single candidate who need a home when their group proves to be not viable and they don't have a clear number two in their heart," said Flaherty, a retired Iowa City banker and peace activist. He spoke at the Johnson County central committee meeting earlier this month and urged supporters of non-viable candidates to consider uncommitted if they could not in good conscience back any viable candidate.

An uncommitted group can be formed at the second-choice or realignment stage even if there isn't one to begin with. Party rules specify that there can be only one uncommitted group in a precinct.

Flaherty says he doesn't have a favorite candidate, "though I admit that I would like to see someone from the second tier of candidates rise." He says he hasn't made any major effort to campaign for uncommitted but has had a lot of one on one conversations with activists. "If uncommitted is not viable, folks should go with their best judgment, and be pragmatic as to where can they be elected as a delegate, if in fact they want to be."

Uncommitted actually won the caucuses in 1976, though Jimmy Carter's strong second was the key milestone in his road to the White House. The last strong uncommitted showing was a 12 percent second place in 1992, the year Tom Harkin ran for president and won Iowa overwhelmingly. In 2004, only 0.1 percent of delegates statewide were uncommitted.

Johnson County elected scattered uncommitted delegates in 1996 when Bill Clinton ran unopposed for re-election, though reports of this were delayed until after press deadlines. Johnson County also chose one uncommitted delegate in 2000 (a labor activist who did not support his union's endorsed candidate chose uncommitted as a lesser step than open opposition).

With their straight one person, one vote system, there is little strategic imperative to vote uncommitted in the Republican caucuses. "No preference" was at 0.4 percent statewide in 1996.

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