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January 18, 2004
The Iowa Hokey Pokey

Ever wonder how the Iowa Caucuses work? So have I; they aren't elections in which people vast secret ballots. Instead, as CNN explains, it's more like musical chairs, where caucusers walk around in each precinct until the music stops, forming groups that indicate support for each candidate (except maybe Kucinich). Those candidates who do not have at least 15% of the entire caucus must release their caucusers for the next round of the game. In between rounds, the candidates and their representatives harangue the participants with speeches, pleas, and promises in order to get already-committed caucusers to change their minds -- which they can do at any time.

Only when all caucusers are committed to "viable" candidates do the precincts send these representatives on to the county conventions, which aren't held until the middle of March. In fact, Iowa doesn't actually decide on its final slate of delegates until the middle of June, when it finally completes its four-tier primary process. It's a bit hard to understand, then, why so much emphasis is placed on Iowa. Dean had it right -- the process almost guarantees that the most energized and radical elements will have the advantage. Of course, that will benefit Dean the most, too.

The first true test, I believe, will be in New Hampshire, where the entire Democratic electorate votes rather than supercharged volunteers caucusing.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 18, 2004 2:57 PM

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