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A few months ago I had an inkling how the Iowa caucuses would develop. I wish I had written this then, but still a month from the caucuses I would like to call how the race will shake out with a bit of my own inside knowledge about the Iowa caucuses. To Preface this post I should mention a few things.

The caucus figures are based on a complicated equation that gives each precinct in Iowa a certain number of delegates as part of 3000 total delegates.

In many precincts a candidate needs 15% of the vote in the precinct to be viable. Some precincts are more valuable then others, ie. In some precincts the vote of 1 person is equal to more than 2 or 3 people based on previous caucus attendance. Where a candidate doesn't have the support to be viable in that precinct, his supporters may pick a second candidate.

The whole caucus process can last three hours, and in Iowa today there are only about 88 thousand people who have ever attended a democratic caucus. This year is bound to break the record on caucus attendance, but because of the time involved especially in some less valuable precincts, weather, and football (does anyone know who's playing on the 19th) people who may commit will not go the caucus. The origination in Iowa forces campaigns to develop a statewide get out the vote effort that makes sure people who are committed to a candidate will come out to vote. Okay, as an anti-Dean dem, here's my predictions for caucus night.

  1. )    Dean will win in a complete blowout. Forget these polls that show Dean only 6 or 10 points away from Gephardt. The reality on the ground is that Dean has since late summer the best-organized ground operation in place. Key example, a friend who hates Dean and supported Lieberman and then maybe Clark and was called the day after Lieberman and Clark dropped out by the Dean campaign asking for his support. He's gotten a long letter from abroad asking him to vote for Dean (I'm not sure if Deaniacs realize exactly how effective this is, though I'm sure the campaign does). He's gotten door knocked, and push polled from what must have been the Dean campaign. (A positive push poll that is different than what the Bushies did to McCain, so I'm not accusing Dean of something wrong.) Deans support in the state from people that I know is wide and extremely deep. It is strong in the major cities, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, the more moderate Waterloo, Keokuk and Sioux City, and competitive or strong in rural precincts. This mean Dean is effectively competing through out the state. Where as Al Gore got hurt in major cities precincts in 2000 he was able to compete everywhere to guarantee a win, where Bradley couldn't. If everyone in Des Moines who is a registered Dem came out and voted for Bradley in 2000, Al Gore would have still won. If Dean can actually get lots of new people to caucus this will easily be a mind blowing win for him, and he profits currently from expectations based on polls that are just not able to factor in the dynamic of the caucuses.
  2. )    Kerry, I saw this a few months ago when I went to visit a friend in Cedar Rapids, but the Kerry campaign, as has now been noted in a lot of places is competing for its life in Iowa, hoping for a bounce back in NH and maybe into the coveted anti-Dean position.  Sending a long video to all County Chairs and some activists can't be cheap, but for the more moderate caucus and liberal activists who want to choose a winner they've met, he's a darling and he's been everwhere. Kerry like Dean is viable in a lot of places and has the origination in place to compete well. With a knowledge that polls show him within striking distance of Gephardt I'm willing to say pretty confidently that even if he stays at his current margin to Gephardt in Iowa, he'll easily win the delegate race. In places where Edwards, and Gephardt aren't competitive Kerry will pick up votes when people are allowed to vote again. Thus people who find themselves not being able to support their preferred candidate, mostly Edwards here, but Gephardt is a close second, Kerry will take more support than Gephardt, this is not to say more won't be willing to support Dean, but I'm already calling Dean a winner so it won't matter much. Kerry will also be decently strong in the cities. This is where all that pandering that he's done with the electorate will pay off. Who else has a five point plan for hog lots? Clark and former Lieberman supporters who went to being undecided will most likely come to Kerry in the caucuses.
  3. )    Gephardt - His inability to win all the union endorsements like he did in `88 has hurt him more than most people expect. He's strong in Union strong counties and cities, like Dubuque and Davenport, and he may have a base of support in less delegate rich precincts, but he doesn't have the cities as strong as he needs to be able to take fight Dean, and IMHO beat Kerry.
  4. )    Kucinich - Okay this isn partly a joke, but I put Kucinich here because I think it's not a long shot. Kucinich will be strong in delegate rich precincts especially if Dean caucus goers decide that Dean is doing well in their precinct. Precinct captains for Dean should be able to stop most of this, but there's no doubt that Kucinich while he doesn't have the organization, (imagine if he did, fourth place would be assured), has plenty of the liberal activists charmed and Dean voters caucusing strategically will help him out in places where they feel Dean is assured a win. Now my fourth place designation is a bit of a joke, but it's my way of saying Kucinich is in place to surprise people, though realistically that won't do him any good.
  5. )    Edwards - I don't know what to say here. All his money and going on TV early hasn't helped Edwards above 15% and while he's probably got scattered support in the state, (probably more than Kucinich), he should have followed Lieberman and Clark out of the state. This isn't to say anything bad about Edwards since I like the guy, Iowa has been a waste of money for him and it seems impossible for him to compete or take votes away for Kerry or Gephardt.
Okay that's my little analysis. I feel pretty confident that the race will play out that way, unless Dean says something tremendously stupid, or Kerry has been slowly losing support over the last week. I think if Clark had stayed in he would have easily taken 3rd and maybe second and could have quickly built an organization that while not fully efficient could have gotten him a surprising amount of support.

Originally posted to laddy on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 01:24 AM PST.


What do you think of the prediction I've made?

39%42 votes
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Comment Preferences

  •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
    Laddy, I'll agree with everything except the nonsense about Kucinich.  Here in NE Ohio (where his congressional district is located), the guy is a joke and a laughingstock.  Do people in Iowa really buy his story?  And if so, why?!?

    Excellent analysis otherwise.  Thanks for the entry.

    Every time I get a Vermont quarter in my change, I donate $25 to the Dean campaign.

    by Hiram on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 01:38:06 AM PST

    •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (4.00)

      I feel the same way about Kucinich. His platform is very attractive to activists in Iowa. Because of the low turn out, activists dominate the caucuses. His ferverently anti-war stance, and his liberal values, from being Anti-Trade is a god send for Iowa caucus goers and people are willing to not commit to Dean to see if they can help Kucinich. It's the same way where some people may vote green is a safe Democratic state.

      I believe in the anti-Dean.

      by laddy on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 01:42:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
        Kucinich will also benefit in Iowa from his unequivocal opposition to the Drug War, especially in Iowa City and Ames.

        I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.

        by ben masel on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 03:13:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
      Agreed. Excellent diary, Laddy. You've given some insights into what's going on now in Iowa that I hadn't heard before.
    •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
      Well, my brother who lives in Cleveland admires Kucinich, not that he thinks DK is going anywhere.
  •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
    A well-argued point of view.  And what many of us have suspected, that the nature of Dean's campaign and his supporters probably give him a lot more support than is captured in the polls. If he wins big in Iowa and NH, and does well on Feb. 3, a lot of pundits will be eating a large helping of crow.  It may not please you, as "an anti-Dean dem", but I would be delighted since I see him as having the best chance of leading an effective fight against Bush. Anyway, thanks for a good read.
  •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
    Who is your friend, the former Lieberman supporter, leaning toward now and why?
    •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
      He'll still start by caucising for lieberman. And then choosing someone else, not Dean. I don't know who per se, but I assume Gep or Kerry.

      I believe in the anti-Dean.

      by laddy on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 04:17:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)
    Yes.  Howard's show of force at the JJ dinner telegraphed a great deal.  Just proved to me what I hear is right.  

    And I look forward to the Iowa chapters in the books to come as this is where the campaign started last year, got tough and bitter on the ground this year, where 2 blew out (Lieberman and Clark) saying it did not matter and one blew back in (Kerry), more or less, to re establish and where Dean will have his early blow out.

  •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (4.00)
    I agree with your primary claim, that Dean's support is undercounted by the polls. The polls must factor in "likely caucus attendees" which includes heavily weighting former attendees, with overcounts Gephart and undercounts Dean.

    I'm just not sure who will be the distant second. Kerry may well pass Gep, since I suspect Gep's union base rank and file is tepid, sees the tea leaves as well as anyone, and are unlikely to support a guy they write off as a has-been. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them answer pollsters one way but will caucus another. Particularly telling was what seemed like a total absence of a Gep presence at the JJ diner.

    But I also have reason to suspect Kerry's support (don't we all). This past summer there was a tall right-wing blogger with a blog named "nine dwarves." He tried to have his photo taken with each of the "dwarves" (I think this guy was even taller than Kerry) and post the photo and belittling comments on his site. When he showed up at Dean's event, he was welcomed, got his photo, and came away reporting that maybe this guy Dean wasn't so bad, since Dean did not parrot the conventional liberal democratic line. But when he went to Kerry's event, the Kerry people were ready for him and kept him from their candidate, fearful of their guy appearing small (in both meanings). The move backfired, and the blogger got a lot of notice calling Kerry a chicken. He also noted that Dean's campaign was on the move, and Kerry's wasn't, and that many in the Kerry camp seemed to have made an early calculation that Kerry would be the winner, and were then regretting jumping on the wrong bandwagon.

    But one element of the Kerry appearance struck me, and I am surprised no one else has commented on it. Kerry rode up to this remote Iowa location on his cycle, helmetless, and his hair perfectly in place. It occurs to me that this could only have been done by trailering the bike to a location near the event, and then giving Kerry the signal by walkie talkie about when to make his entrance. I suspect the good people of Iowa knew a phoney when they saw one, and that this motorcycle stunt, like much of the Kerry campaign, backfired more than they ever knew.

    With the 15% rule, there will be no Kucinich vote, and very little Edwards.

  •  Re: I call Iowa for Dean, Kerry second.... (none)


    Wow.  Thanks for the insight.  You've put a lot of thought into this and it makes sense to me.

    I might give Gephardt a slight edge over Kerry.  Your gut may be stronger than mine (Prilosec, anyone?), but I get a stronger Gep vibe.  And being snowbound in Maine, I certainly know exactly what's going on in Iowa...

    And you're right about those handwritten letters from Dean supporters to Iowans (and New Hampsterites as well).  I remember when they started doing seemed to be a one-shot deal at first, but they came roaring back in a hurry when they saw how effective those letters were.  I think Dean's got a lock on Iowa, too.

    Thanks again.


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