Thursday, November 19, 2015

One County's Youth Caucus

I just went to my first ever Republican caucus.

In a joint project with both parties and the Secretary of State's office, high school students across Iowa participated in a Youth Caucus Thursday at the Johnson County HHS building. Johnson County drew about 30 students, with Clear Creek Amana beating West High for attendance.

Five Republican campaigns were on hand - Bush, Cruz, Fiorina, Paul, and Santorum - for what that says for the state of the ground game. (The Donald also has people on the ground, but with the candidate in Newton they were all busy.)

And these guys were representin' for teams Bernie, Martin and Hillary.

The GOP took the floor first, with Cyndi Michel walking the group through their process. The campaign reps got up and gave their two minute drills, with pre-recorded messages from the candidates who didn't have someone in person. (We had the DVD on repeat before the program started and had to keep skipping Bobby Jindal.)

They we passed out the ballots - factoid: no names on the ballots, all votes in the Republican caucus straw poll are write-ins - and everybody voted. Well, almost everybody. They way we did this, all the students participated in both the Republican and Democratic processes, and we reported results. But one guy opted out of the GOP vote.

The campaign and party reps left to an adjacent room (which we Johnson County employees call "the Fishbowl") to count up while I did the MOST important thing of the night and talked about voter registration. A lot of people don't know that you can register when you're 17 1/2, and you can caucus if you'll be 18 by general election day (anyone born on or before 11/8/1998). We got five new registered voters.

The Republicans announced the results with Rand Paul the winner. With all students participating in both caucuses, the bragging rights are slightly problematic - insert my standard Bernie/Rand Paul argument here -  but the Secretary of State will be posting results.

The Democratic mock caucus was highly realistic because it was in my precinct, in my caucus room, and I was chairing it. It was also realistic because a couple people left early, and because the Republicans were done a long time before we were.

The organizer dudes represented well, and then I got to show everyone the magic moment of realignment. The Uncommitted group was the biggest - again, with all the students participating in both party processes, it's possible that the Republican leaning students went to Uncommitted.

Team Hillary was just short of viable, so I gave everyone a couple chances to make their best pitches. But nobody moved, so I had to call time. The Hillary group all instantly switched to O'Malley - same thing I saw the Gephardt group do with John Kerry at the real 2004 caucus - which gained him a delegate and not coincidentally one of the Hillary people got one of the two delegate seats.

After the briefest of overviews of our other activity - "Committee on Committees" is a good laugh line - I handed off to Dennis and Robin Roseman, who explained the platform process. We took Q and A off and on through all this, then called it a night. A few of the students stuck around to chat with the staffers.

Thanks to all of the above mentioned plus Karen Fesler from the Republicans, Jim Tate and Melva Hughes from the Democrats, the rest of the JCDems exec board for the last minute packet stuffing party, to HyVee for the snacks, and all the staffers and teachers.

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