When thinking about the Iowa Caucus the first thing that comes to my mind is that this event is only for political junkies. OK it is the first in the long line of primaries and caucuses that will eventually determine who will be nominated to run for president of the United State. Some but not all winners of the caucus do actually get the nomination in the end and some may even go on to win the national election. It is an unusual showing of political dedication when over one hundred thousand citizens attend the political event, which is more than just heading to the local poll and cast a ballot.
Does the average person really take note of the event, except for those living in Iowa? Alone the word caucus is usually enough to confuse most people into questioning the event. Most people can understand what a primary is, but who really gets what a caucus is? The media, though, has put more attention on Iowa and given its results more weight. Of course the political correspondents are pretty much political junkies and hoping to sell their story.
In any case for those who want to know what the Iowa Caucus is, it is not a primary. It can best be described as a gathering. It is basically people getting together, and while they are at it, they vote on who they would like to be the candidate for their party. Of course independents and people from other parties can take part in the caucus, but they must re-register themselves as either democrats or republicans respectively.
They meet in the evening in gyms, auditoriums or even private homes. First they cast their votes for the candidate they favor most. This is done differently in the democratic and republican caucuses. The democrats stand in different parts of the room the caucus take place in. Each candidate is assigned a certain part of the room. The caucus goers then move themselves to the part of the room assigned to the candidate of their choice. Republicans on the other hand write down the name of the candidate of their choice.
In any case the “votes” are tallied and communicated to the party headquarters, who then communicate them to the media. Although most caucus goers then go home. Others remain to select delegates and even work on the party program.
Now the caucuses do select delegates, but these delegates are not sent to the national convention that ultimately selects the candidate for the party. They are mainly delegates to a county conventions, which in turn selects delegates to the state convention. Only ate the state convention are delegates to the national convention selected. Even these delegates, though, are not bound to any candidate and they will make up only less than 1% of the national convention delegates.
To put it bluntly the caucus has little or no influence on how many delegates the candidate will ultimately get from Iowa. Nevertheless the results of the vote, which is more like a straw poll than anything else, does have an impact on who might get the party’s nomination.
It is the first official vote in the election process and it therefore receives a considerable amount of attention. This can give a candidate a surge in media coverage, which the candidate could capitalize on to boost their efforts in the primaries that follow.
For a more details, check out ABC’s well written article on the Iowa Caucus.