I used to say three things could kill the caucuses: a Screw Iowa candidate winning the presidency, an ice storm, or an ADA (or military) lawsuit demanding an absentee ballot. So... what does a dead heat result do? I don't care whether Santorum or Mitt wins; I care about 2016.
At this point I'm rooting for a narrow Santorum win because I think Mitt will let a narrow second slide; Santorum might be more litigious and fight for the Official win. And there's not really a recount process for what's really just a straw poll at a party meeting.
The Ames Straw Poll is dead. So are the two candidates who peaked on that split screen day, Bachmann and Perry. Perry at least is smart enough to know it. My only regret is that I never got my "the Platypus" meme to stick.
So my bet of a Ron Paul win sucked thanks to my Johnson County perspective. But consider: What if the caucused had been held when originally scheduled on February 6, and not in the middle of college winter breaks? Thanks, Florida.
But how many Paul and Santorum people stuck around to elect delegates after the Romney and Gingrich people went home?
Enough of the Republicans for now, let me tell you about my experience on the Democratic side.
My opinion is that the GOOD part of the caucus is the run-up: the visits, the national attention. And we Democrats didn't get that this cycle. I get that Obama/Plouffe/Quaxelrod probably wanted to keep The Big Guy above the fray. But Bill Clinton did pre-caucus weekend here in 1996 and we filled Carver-Hawkeye. Sorry but the video link just didn't cut it. Heck, even sending Joe would have helped.
Actual caucus night is a chore. It wasn't as horrible as four years ago, when we could barely move, but it was still a long night. We had 300ish (I was busy and missed the exact count) for the seven precincts at Southeast Junior High. I was busy with straggler sign-ins and problems and missed most of the presidential presentation.
Johnson County's party exec board decided last week that we needed to bend the state rules and let non-Obama speakers address the large group. There were three speakers on each side, counting Obama himself. The first uncommitted speaker was receieved OK on specific issues but got a few boos when she described Obama as "worse than Bush" on some issue that I don't recall at the moment.
After the third non-Obama speech an Obama supporter asked to "rebut" some remarks. The informal agreement our exec board hammered out was supposed to be equal numbers on each side, but the large group voice-voted (which wasn't formally in the ruled) to let the rebuttal speaker speak. I may have been the lone no, simply because I wanted to stick to what had been worked out.
But the mood of the night was to talk, and talk, and talk, It was after 8 when we got into our precinct room; I was handling Iowa City 10 where I live now, and Iowa City 11 where no one signed up to chair. (After reprecincting, I'll be in 11. So I got to caucus with both my old and new precinct.) I won a contested (!) election for chair, and an uncommitted fellow was my secretary.
Precinct 11 was easy. It's a largely student apartment precinct and only three people showed up. They were all for Obama, elected themselves, called a friend, elected her as a fourth delegate, and left.
Precinct 10 wound up in a Mexican standoff. I'm not supposed to say numbers but I will anyway, Four delegates. 15 bodies for Obama, 9 for Uncommitted. (This was after a discussion on whether there could be an "uncommitted" group and an "undecided" group.) The delegate math there works out to 2.5 Obama, 1.5 Uncommitted. The rules say you round up above .5 and down below .5, but a panicked re-read of the rules didn't tell me what to do with two .5's, and neither could the rules experts next door in the mighty 18th Precinct.
Both sides offered the usual deal: if one of your people comes over, we'll make them the delegate under our banner. You can switch back to whatever you want at the convention. Both sides knew that it wasn't about who was the delegate -- the actual election of delegates later was accomplished by the usual "put your hand down to be an alternate" method -- but about the number tonight.
Later I learned that if the standoff can't be resolved you flip a coin. But by that time, Uncommitted had won the filibuster and yes I choose that word deliberately. An Obama couple with a young child had to go home, which gave Uncommitted the second delegate. So a clear Obama majority at alignment time gets reported as a tie. Such is caucus math.
At that point all but three of us Obamabots went home, and the Uncommitteds stayed. The committee and platform elections went uncontested. I got re-elected to the central committee out of precinct 10, which is being split up in about four directions. A seat went begging in precinct 11, so I'll probably resign from one and run for the other when we reorganize our central committee. (That'll be a mess with reprecincting, but frankly the national press doesn't care so we just have to figure it out. Thanks again, Florida.) I'm also on the annoyingly named Committee On Committees
Some caucuses have the mood of: let's pass all the resolutions tonight and let the platform committee do it. That's what I'm used to and frankly what I prefer. I'm a GOTV guy not a platform guy, and I'm actually considering voting no on the whole platform just to make some sort of point. (If we can't make people follow it, why have it?)
Some precinct have the tradition of talking through them all, amending them word by word. My precinct 18 next door neighbors do that. That's also what my folks wanted to do. I'll be honest, I wasn't too tuned in, especially after the Oh Crap moment when I realized I still needed to call my results in! There was lots of the Occupy finger wiggling; I'm not of that movement so I don't get it. We had a straggler from the wrong precinct; we let him read his resolutions, someone else formally made the motion, we passed them.
Precinct 18 headed out the door; precinct 10 stayed. We finally wrapped at 10:02 PM. Sure, democracy takes time, but did it need to take THAT much time?
I did not hear the phrase Hey Hey Ho Ho all night, and I am glad.
1:13 AM and now they're calling it Mitt by 14 votes. Again this is a political party meeting not an election so there's not really a "recount" process. But there's really no way to describe this as anything but a tie. And a record low, below 25 percent "win."
Later they update this to Romney by 8. Even more of a tie. If this was a real election they'd still be recounting it by national convention.
The Real Democratic Results land at 1:15 AM:
With 97.18 percent of precincts reporting, the Iowa Democratic Party has released county-level data for state delegate equivalents earned in tonight's Democratic caucuses.See, this is what I didn't like about the bogus attendance "result." Uncommitted sure made more than 1.54% of the noise, so their result, no matter what the delegate math, is an embarrassment. (and as noted, in my precinct the delegate math actually gave Uncommitted half the delegates with less than half the people.)
President Obama earned 98.46 percent of the reported delegates to the state convention, with 1.54 percent reporting as other. Data is available by county at http://iowademocrats.org/caucus/hPressVt76HujI/.
So instead of giving them the two-stage result to complain about, why not just emphasize the real number out there? Obama: We are the 98 percent.
(Wonder how it woulda gone if folks hadn't given Ron Paul a chance to win?)
My bet is the 2 point somethin' percent of precinct not reporting are mostly small rurals with no attendees.
News from The Hill:
Romney wins Iowa caucuses by 8 votes
POLITICO Breaking News
The Iowa caucuses delivered a virtual tie for first place
Can you imagine the paranoia and conspiracy theories if it had been Ron Paul in second by eight votes? I was really hoping that my tale of getting tosses from his training would have gotten more play.
I take the virtual tie line. One typo in one spreadsheet, one transposed digit, could flip this thing as the GOP checks the paperwork. By that point the national press and candidates will be in Nevada and South Carolina and it won't matter.
The tweets and comments are slowing to a trickle so I'll end with this.
I met Santorum a couple times. Though I think he's entirely unelectable and though I loathe his views, I found him personable and likeable. (I find Dennis Kucinich annoying despite our by and large agreement on issues.) And leaving aside the internal politics of the fight for King of The Iowa Christian Conservatives -- and that battle will play itself out the next few months -- Rick Santorum's tie tonight is a win for Iowa.
Hear me out, Democrats. Hear me out, Stephen Bloom, preparing the latest screed about the relatively high degree of consanguinity in our gene pool.
Rick Santorum did it the Jimmy Carter way. The Iowa way. The guy had nuthin.' No office, no base, no money, no plausible rationale.
At the end of July each year we have a mock election at our county fair and post results periodically. At the next to the last results, the middle of the fourth and final day,Rick Santorum had zero votes. An hour before closing time, Karen Santorum and six of the kids showed up. It's just for fun, so they all voted. Pitiful? Not really. Because they were at all those county fairs and county meetings and visited Pole Bean Center and Casserole Junction, sometimes more than once.
I'll admit, I skipped a lot of them: who wants to drive to the next county to cover some fourth tier candidate with no chance? I even blew off the six block bike ride when he was on campus with BVP, the night after Obama got bin Laden.
This result is not simply proof of what social issue throwbacks we are. This result is good news for some unknown Democrat with no money and lots of shoe leather who will start showing up at Iowa county party barbecues sometime in 2013, who will campaign with legislators in 2014 the way Santorum campaigned against the judges in 2010. And where the small fish swim, the big fish follow. And sometimes the little fish grow.
If you had told me at that point that five months after that county fair, a Some Dude who lost his own Senate seat by 20 points, who literally couldn't draw votes outside his immediate family, would wind up in a tie for first in the Iowa caucuses, I've have eaten my beret.
As for Rick Santorum, he's probably wondering where he could have found nine more hands to shake.