DES MOINES – A friend in California asked about the ballyhooed Iowa Republican caucuses:
“What do Democrats do on Tuesday?” A reasonable question.
At my precinct more than 300 Democrats showed up for voting in the 2008 caucuses. In 2010 as I remember it, about a dozen were there, including several kids getting credit for a high school civics class.
The turnout Tuesday will be much, much closer to the dozen. We’ll hear greetings from Sen. Tom Harkin and our U.S. Representative, pass the hat for $$ contributions to the party, likely hear from people from Obama For America, elect a couple of delegates to the county Democratic convention on March 10 and approve various proposals for the party platform. That’s about it. Should take an hour or so.
Most earnest among those attending will be folks hoping to get on the delegate list for the national convention in Charlotte, NC, the first week of September. Those who don’t get automatic delegate status — like Iowa party officials and major office holders — almost have to start at the precinct level to make the team.
For their part, Republicans in my precinct will do much the same after their first major order of business, voting. They vote right away so the news media can get the results out. The GOP folks will get greetings from Sen. Chuck Grassley and, likely, from the GOP congressman (who, by redistricting, has been tossed into the same district as the Democratic incumbent) and elect delegates and act on the party platform. At the GOP gathering a lot of people who show up to vote for Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will go home after the vote. They will leave the platform business to the persistent evangelicals, who will again shape an extremist, no-moderates-need-apply platform.”
As for the outcome of the voting, the top three likely now will be U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Romney and Rick Santorum. Even if he finishes fourth, Santorum will be considered a winner because he was given little hope of a top five finish as recently as a month ago. How far that will carry him in the campaign is another question.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign ends in disarray. The chair of her state campaign, Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson, jumped ship to endorse Paul — a bizarre event to wrap up the bizarre Iowa caucus.