PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO START THURSDAY!
2008 is here and the Iowa caucuses will convene tomorrow. The world will be watching. We have not had such a wide-open race for president for years. On the Republican side, a Mason-Dixon poll in Iowa shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with 27% and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 23%. Other polls had Romney on top or in a statistical tie. For the Democrats, the new polls all found the race among the top three contenders- Clinton, Obama, and Edwards- tight.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan got trounced in the Iowa caucuses but won their party's nomination and the White House, so does it really matter who wins in Iowa tomorrow? Many Americans would say it does not. Only about 125,000 total from both parties will caucus in a political ritual that baffles nearly everyone, including Iowans. The process is so complicated that Iowa's secretary of state goes on tour setting up mock caucus nights so Iowans can practice.
In the primary election system, voters simply go to the polling station and cast a confidential vote for their favorite candidate. But in Iowa, hardy Democratic and Republican supporters must be prepared to venture out in sub-zero temperatures on a cold Thursday night to sit through a political meeting, debating the challengers' merits for several hours before publicly putting up their hand for their candidate. And if your candidate does not attract at least 15 per cent of the vote at the precinct meeting, your neighbors and friends try to persuade you to switch votes.
According to the National Journal, “most political activists inspired by legendary movement conservatives like Morton Blackwell, prefer caucuses, rather than primaries.” “Why?” “Caucuses favor organized interests and primaries dilute them." Primaries do allow more participants, however many times those participants are not as informed or engaged in the politics as the activists.
While the cacuses have been a financial boon to the state, the political value of the Iowa caucuses has gone up and down over the years. In 1988, for example, the candidates who eventually won the nominations of both parties came in third in Iowa. In elections without a sitting President or Vice President, the Iowa winner has gone on to the nomination only about half the time
The Iowa caucus operates very differently from the more common primary election system used by most other states including Oklahoma. The caucus is generally defined as a "gathering of neighbors." Rather than going to the polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1784 precincts. Typically, these meetings occur in schools, churches, public libraries and homes. The caucuses are held every two years, but the ones that receive national attention are the presidential preference caucuses held every four years.
In the Republican caucuses, each voter casts his or her vote by secret ballot. Voters are presented blank sheets of paper with no candidate names on them. After listening to some campaigning for each candidate by caucus participants, they write their choices down and the Republican Party of Iowa tabulates the results at each precinct and transmits them to the media. The non-binding results are tabulated and reported to the state party which releases the results to the media. Delegates from the precinct caucuses go on to the County Convention, which chooses delegates to the District Convention, which in turn selects delegates to the State Convention. Thus it is the Republican State Convention, not the precinct caucuses, which select the ultimate delegates to the Republican National Convention in Iowa.
In Oklahoma we will have precinct meetings on Tuesday January 29th. We will hold our county conventions in February, our district convention in March/April and our state convention on May 3rd. Delegates to our county convention are selected at the primary meetings which in turn selects delegates to the District and State Convention where the national delegates will be elected. What is different in Oklahoma from Iowa is that Oklahoma holds a presdiental primary. Oklahoma’s presdiental primary is on Super Tuesday February 5th when ninteen other states will hold their primaries. GOP National Delegates are required to vote for the winner of the Oklahoma presidential primary on the first ballot at the national convention. They are released from that commitment after the first ballot.
I would urge every registered Republican in the state of Oklahoma to attend their precinct meeting on Tuesday January 29th. They will be various locations throughout the state. You can find out where yours will be held by calling the state GOP HQ at 405.528.3501. This is an opportunity for you to get involved in the process that will ultimately decide our party’s nominee for President.