In a low key meeting last week, Iowa Democrats approved, with virtually no change from the first draft, changes to the Democratic caucus process proposed in late March.
The state central committee approved the 2016 national delegate selection plan after a month-long public comment period.
The main change is the implementation of "satellite caucuses" and a tele-caucus for military personnel. The moves are seen as must-do to protect Iowa's first in the nation status.
I examined the proposed changes in a dissertation-length four part post, so I'll just link and summarize.
Part 1 looked at why the changes are happening. We were much criticized in 2008, over both our first in the nation role
for our Must Be Present To Play rules. There was some self-interest in those attacks, which mainly came from the Clinton campaign and from states that tried to cut in line. But they had a point. This cycle, it was
made clear to Iowa very early that if we wanted to keep First we
would need to address some of the participation issues affecting shift
workers and military personnel.
Part 2 explained just what is being done. There will be one military tele-caucus for the state, and X number of satellite caucuses at "sites that have a
sizable number of Democrats who are willing to participate in a
satellite caucus but could not otherwise participate in their precinct
caucuses." For purposes of explanation I offered two Johnson County examples: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the Oaknoll retirement community.
In Part 3, I look at how the military and satellite caucuses affect delegate math: not much. They'll function sort of like a 100th and 101st county. The math is still incomplete until the state central committee sets the state convention size at a May 16 meeting in Waterloo. But based on past years, the satellite caucuses would rank 99th in an imaginary 101 county Iowa, and the military caucus would be the smallest "county" in the state.
I'd write Part 4, where I express some fears, differently today now that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have announced their candidacies.
The Scooby Road
Trip made me feel better. True, Hillary's contact was all with either relatively random people at
the two publicly announced events, or with walk on hot coals for
Hillary die-hards at the unannounced events. No skeptical Dems, no wide
open random Q & A, no press. But coming to Iowa first was a big deal gesture, and the coverage and reaction were overwhelmingly positive.
This may not be a conventional Iowa caucus campaign - the media circus around the visit indicates that may be very difficult. But that was the FIRST trip. On the third, fifth, eighth trip, that may settle down and maybe there will be some genuine, "spirit of the caucuses" events.
(I keep getting bashed for that phrase... but I'm still damn proud of that post. Maybe I've grumbled too much since, but it was written as an in the moment analysis, and in the context of January 2, 2008, it was dead on.)
One of my concerns was that Team Hillary would overkill the satellite caucus, petitioning for dozens of sites as a "show of support." Since then, the Hillary staffers have hit the ground and I've had lunch with a couple. That's one of the first assignments of any field staffer: meet with the Key Local Activists. And that's one of the jobs of the Key Local Activists. Sanders, O'Malley, Webb, Chaffee staffers: call me when you get here.
(My rule, which should be the rule for everyone everywhere: when New Staffer and Key Local Activist have lunch, Key Local Activist buys. I'm repaying everyone who bought me lunch in Cedar Rapids on the 1992 campaign, and the staffers will pay me back by buying someone lunch when they're Key Activists in the 2040 campaign.)
The answer I got, to paraphrase, is that Team Hillary is busy enough trying to line up people for the regular precinct caucuses that they don't seem interested in giving themselves even more work with satellite caucuses.
Also, it seems my Part 3 satellite caucus math post has made the rounds and people realize that the delegate stakes of the satellite caucuses are very small.
The stakes are large, of course, if you can't participate any other way. And the stakes are HUGE if you're a state getting told "do this or you lose First."
While I originally preferred a different way of handling the Must Be Present question, the decision had been made, and as Johnson County's point person for caucus night logicstics, I'm committed to making it work.