Evening of Intrique
I arrived at the local precinct, a job training center, just before 6pm. Voters were asked to sign in upon entering, and then were at once greeted by supporters of one of four candidates: Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and Joe Biden. Clinton's camp went so far as to provide food and water for participants, and all eagerly slapped stickers on supporters' chests. Another team administered "entrance surveys" to attendees to determine initial and secondary preferences, instruments critical to network predictions and later analysis of demographic and issue-based trends behind the votes.
Caucus goers entered a large room with chairs situated throughout, with precinct captains for the aforementioned candidates positioned in strategic places throughout the room. Attendees generally sat close to the stations for the candidate they supported upon entering, but there were pockets of undecided voters, along with small contingents for Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd.
The formal festivities started late as turnout was higher than expected, and voters needed only be in line by 7pm. The meeting was finally called to order at 7:25pm, and a precinct chair and secretary were subsequently elected. Then, preference groups for each of the candidates were counted alongside a tally for the entire room. With an assembled group of 117 on hand, a candidate needed 18 supporters, or 15% of the room, to be considered viable. With the initial count, only Obama (46 supporters), Clinton (41), and Edwards (19) had sufficient representation.
The next 30 minutes were devoted to bargaining amongst the three viable campaigns for undecided and non-viable candidates (see below for video footage of the proceedings). In the end, Obama's camp persuaded 7 additional supporters to come on board to Clinton and Edwards' 2. The 6 available delegates were subsequently awarded on this basis, with Obama claiming 3, Clinton 2, and Edwards 1. Delegates to the county convention were then chosen for each candidate, and then the caucus proceeded to address platform issues.
As I departed, the major news networks had already called the race for Obama, and it was clear why. Record turnout, 212,000 strong (compared to 125,000 in 2004), with a heavy reliance on a younger and more diverse demographic, contributed to the knockout of the establishment candidate (Clinton) and the angry populist (Edwards). Such trends were evident in the small gathering I witnessed, as Clinton attracted a decidedly older, female contingent, while Obama's was remarkably young, even racially diverse in this relatively homogeneous state. Edwards' supporters were uniformly white, but in the middle of the room's age continuum.
In the end, I witnessed a remarkable display of democracy in action, where citizens spent an evening talking to one another about the issues that matter in this great nation. New Hampshire will follow suit, and without doubt some candidates are already en route. Iowa did claim a couple of casualties, however, as Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have already left the race, and Fred Thompson may soon follow.
Check back here for more in-depth analysis tomorrow morning, along with another podcast pontificating about this evening's developments and what lies ahead. I bid you a pleasant good evening from Iowa.