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.
- ) 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.
- ) 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.
- ) 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.
- ) 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.
- ) 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.