The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Those Iowa Caucuses

Rich Galen

Monday March 18, 2019

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  • The Iowa caucuses are less than one year away. The Democrats have set February 3, 2020 as the date of the in-person caucuses, but have added six days running up to the 3rd when Iowans can participate in a "virtual caucus."

  • The two parties have an almost comic history of being unable to properly count the order of finish in the quadrennial Iowa Caucuses when only those who showed up in person on the night of, could participate.

  • With the addition of virtual caucuses, the chances of the Democrats getting out of Iowa without the word "lawsuit" entering into it are infinitesimal.


    We go through this every four years: The plural of "caucus" is not "caucii."

    According to some experts, as described by Merriam-Webster, it is derived from an Algonquin word, "caucauasu, which has the meaning of one who advises."

    Others, again via Merriam-Webster, think it is derived as a corruption of the word "caulkers" - men who worked in Boston shipyards caulking wooden ships - as in "caulker's meeting."

    In any event, caucus is not a Greek word.


  • Another quadrennial argument is: Why do we put so much emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire - two states that are (a) small - Iowa has four Congressional Districts (thus 6 electoral votes) and New Hampshire two CDs (4 electoral votes).

  • Ok. It is a lot easier for an underfunded candidate to organize two small states and stay in the game than it will be to organize, say, California (March 3, 2020) and hope to be able to stay in the field.

  • Another issue with Iowa and New Hampshire is this: In an era of much-needed increasing diversity among Democratic candidates these two states are anything but representative.

  • According to Wikipedia, the White, non-Hispanic or Latino population of the U.S. as a whole is 61.3 percent. But the U.S. Census (via lists Iowa as 91.1 percent White; New Hampshire 93.6 percent.

  • I know what you're thinking: The Whiteness of Iowa is why Barak Obama's having beaten both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton in 2008 was such a big deal.

  • The day after the 2008 caucuses, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney wrote Obama had been "lifted by a record turnout of voters who embraced his promise of change."

  • Keep that in mind as we look at the summary of early polls showing the two leaders as Joe Biden at 29 percent (who hasn't even announced yet) and Bernie Sanders at 22 percent. In the "promise of change" department the two early leaders are a combined 153 years old.

  • Kamala Harris is third with 11.3 percent and everyone else is in single digits. As of this writing there have been no polls in and out of the field since Beto O'Rourke (5.3 percent) officially ran onto the field to the paroxysms of joy among the national press corps.

  • Compare and contrast to the official entry into the race by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) over the weekend which was greeted by a gigantic yawn.

  • By my count, Gillibrand is the 15th Democrat in the race. Biden is not in that total.

  • On the other side of the bracket (to get into March Madness Mode) at the primary peak in 2016, there were 17 Republicans in the race for President, so no snickering at the Dems.

  • published an analysis that showed Trump may have a higher hill to climb than even he did four years ago. According to Axios:
    Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are harder this time because Hillary Clinton, a turnoff for many working-class voters, won't be on the ballot.

    Demographics are making North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Arizona more competitive, and realistically in play.

  • The only announced challenger to Trump (72 years old) in the GOP primary, is former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (73 years old) who ran as the Vice Presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket four years ago.

  • Trump hasn't even bothered to give Weld a nickname.

  • The candidates are still running behind the pace car, but by the middle of next month the field should be set and the green flag will have fallen.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Merriam-Webster "Caucus" discussion, also links to the census data on Iowa and New Hampshire, to the poll averages, and to the Axios analysis of Trump's electoral map.

    The Mullfoto is a wonderful shot of a tree in bloom in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

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