January 3, 2008

Iowa reality check

Here's a few stats that might put the intense glare of international attention and king-making status of tonight's Iowa primary in perspective.

It's a reality that Iowa caucus voters essentially pick our next president, or at the very least, have enormous influence under the current system. This is due to the entire political culture agreeing that they'll annoint whomever does well there as the official big momentum front-runner, which results in more cash, more attention, and more inevitiblity going into New Hampshire and thus on to the rest of the primaries.

A truly insane amount of importance and portent is placed on the will of Iowan caucus goers.

The storyline is already written. Obama and Clinton can go on if they don't win first place, Edwards is finished, etc.

How democratic is this? (or how sane?) A look at the numbers....

Estimated Iowa Population in 2005 based on Census Bureau data: 2,966,334

Iowa ranks 30th in population of all 50 states.

Iowa represents almost exactly 1% of the United States population.

Iowa's population is approximately 95% white, 3.7% hispanic, and 2.3% black.

The US population (2000) is approximately 77% white, 12.5% hispanic, and 12.9% black.

An estimated 2.75 million Iowans will not participate in the 1,781 precinct caucuses tonight.

Iowa has 600,572 registered Democrats, 574,571 registered Republicans, and 737,054 voters registered as undeclared.

In '04, 122,000 Democrats representing four one-hundredths of the U.S. population, and 115,000 Republicans, a bit smaller proportion, attended caucuses. The number of caucus goers participating tonight will no doubt be larger for the Dems, projected to be around 130,000 and less for Republicans, estimated to be about 80,000.

So literally the entire planet is focused on, and literally hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on, the opinions of roughly FOUR ONE HUNDREDTHS of a percent (0.04%) of our population.

And when you factor in that only a portion of that tiny fraction actually votes for the winner, you have the rather disturbing fact that barely one one-hundredth of one percent of the American population (0.01%), for all intents and purposes, determines who we have as presidential candidates.

This percent doesn't reflect the racial makeup of the country, nor does it reflect much else.

Yet this infinitesimally small and unrepresentitive sliver of our population essentially decides who the leader of the free world will be for the next four years at minimum.

Is this good government?

How did it come to be that winning or exceeding expectations in Iowa was considered a guarantee of future success? Why does a win in Iowa (a fine state, by the way) automatically assure the candidate a huge spike in the polls and in campaign cash?

Why is the political system such lemmings that they think that a speck-like proportion of us, who happen to be Iowans, must reflect the political wishes of the other 99.99.% of the United States?

Why do pundits and the rest slavishly rely on the political choices of roughly one third of the 122,000 citizens who participate in the caucuses and vote for the winner, about 44,700 citizens, and assume they dictate the will of the other 296,333,104 citizens who live in the U.S.?

Of course, a smaller number of the U.S. population are actually registered voters, but that's still a mind-boggling disproportion. It amounts to every Democrat who participates in tonight's caucus representing 6,630 of their fellow Americans. That's some kind of clout. (But thank god it's not Texans.)

Iowans are smart, educated and literate, and lord knows they get to see and hear more BS from these candidates than any decent person should ever have to endure.

But really, is this any way to pick presidential candidates?


A few other random tid-bits.

Iowa has 7 electoral votes

Iowa will send 45 Democratic delegates to their national convention, and 37 Republicans to theirs.

Amount spent on TV ads in Iowa:
Romney $7 million
Huckabee $1.4 million

Obama $9 million
Clinton $7.2 million
Edwards $3.2 million

The Clinton campaign reports organizing 5000 volunteers in the state, and is expecting to provide 4,900 rides to the caucuses tonight.


Anyone who participated tonight is encouraged to write in and describe what you saw and experienced.

Whether it's sane or not, the Iowa caucuses are certainly a media circus and seminal event.


At 1/03/2008 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oooooo-weeeeee, look out!

After the results,
Edwards speaks - and he is negative, negative, negative.
He is trying to be issue-oriented, but he is negative.

Hillary speaks - and its much of the same!

Huckabee speaks and he is elequent! I was not a believer in this guy, but dang...he is positive and liekable.

All the Dem's can do is tell you how bad Bush is (Dope, you have got to love this), but they will not play to the Independants (they play well to the hard-left).

Let's face it,
SENATOR Clinton,

With Congressional approval ratings being lower than Bush's, why would anyone think that any Senator can win?

Look out for Huckabee!!!!

At 1/03/2008 10:00 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 9:56.

The question is not if, but rather when Huckabee will go down in flames.

He's not establishment, represents the very divisive and fanatical element who've hijacked the Republican party and whom the establishment wing of the party are desperate to distance themselves from, and will sputter and crash sooner or later.

Mark my words.

At 1/04/2008 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, here is the rub...time for a history lesson.

Senators do not win the Presidency.

Kerry - 2004
Gore - 2000
Dole - 1996
Mondale - 1984
McGovern - 1972
Humphrey - 1968
Goldwater - 1966

Not since JFK won in 1962 has a Senator won the Presidence - and that was stolen in Illinois by his father.

In the last 50-years, it is an absolute fact that Senators do not win the White House.

So, what do the Dem's put forth? All Senators!!!

It seems to me that the only hope is Obama, as he really is not a Senator, he really has no history.

So, you might want to wait for Huckabee to implode, but it is Senators, not Governors, that seem to implode.

At 1/04/2008 8:24 AM, Blogger Matt said...

i stood up for edwards last night in my first caucus (moved across the river last year). after weeks reading kos and others rip on the state's status as first in the nation, and on the caucus process itself, i felt a little angered at the anti-iowan (the people, not the process) sentiments, but also understood some of the frustrations. and after last night, i'm pretty much still in that same boat - the taste of my first caucus was a little sweet but also a little sour.

first off, some good news - evidently 220 people showed up to our precinct's site 4 years ago. This year, 458. yay, us. but now then... this meant we needed 69 people to be rooting for a "viable" candidate. obama's crowd had 260 or so folks, hillary had 80-something, and we/edwards had... yup... 69 exactly. the way this whole process works means that if we were one person fewer than this number, we would have been now seen as equal to the group of 3 kucinich supporters. what a crock of shit. i read a couple similar other stories in atrios' comment sections last night.

maybe i'm being naive about some things because i'm new to this, but that part of the night didn't feel good.

but all in all, it was fun standing amongst a packed house of diverse democrats.

At 1/04/2008 3:24 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 7:22

An interesting observation, but here's my own history lesson.

Until 1903 no human being had ever made a controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight. Not once or twice. Never before.

I could list all the failed attempts until that time, but you get the point.

It's good to look to history as a guide, but in matters such as this, I doubt the trend you cite will hold up, particularly this year.

The Democrats are blessed with a glut of very well qualified and popular candidates. Thank goodness they weren't foolish enough to believe that particular bit of history to be law.

I find it telling that as a Republican, you're now clinging to such a relatively flimsy bit of history as your only hope.

At 1/04/2008 3:30 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Thank you for that excellent report of your experience. Very interesting indeed. And I can imagine the bitter frustration felt by candidates who fell short of the 15% threshold by one person. Ouch!

When you consider the reports of many caucus goers, (including at least one who said they were going to support Edwards) who simply turned back due to overcrowding, parking, or long waits, and simply went home without bothering to participate, it makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow.

The system makes sense on an intellectual basis, and the fact is that if they're going to establish a threshold, it has to be set SOMEwhere, and that somewhere is always going to result in instances where a candidate JUST falls short.

That said, I imagine there are better systems out there, but they may be even more complex or hard to administer. Who knows?

The caucus process is uniquely democratic, and Iowa is justly proud of it, but I'm sure that after experiences like yours, many would prefer that they go to a straight primary like the majority of other states.

At 1/04/2008 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Believe what you will Dope, but the fact is that qualified Senators lose because they have a history of votes, whereas Governors can sidestep a lot of issues.

Again, Obama can sidestep as well, because he just has not been around. However, this also is a problem for him, as it shows his inexperience.

It will be interesting.

At 1/04/2008 4:10 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 4:00

Of course Senators have historically had a tough time getting elected president, primarily because of the reason you cite, their trail of votes (and payoffs, etc.)

This has shown to be a crucial reason that Hillary lost her inevitability and front-runner status. Her vote on the Iraq invasion and the more recent vote to designate the Iranian Guard as a terrorist organization, rightly seen as eneabling another Bush/Cheney effort to get us into another war.

But since Obama isn't hobbled by this factor, and neither is Edwards to any great degree, and for that matter, neither is any of the other Dem Senators who are (or were) in the race, I don't think that the senate factor applies this time around.

It certainly doesn't for Obama, and so putting the senator factor forth as a suggestion that none of the Dems will win simply doesn't hold up.

At 1/04/2008 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edwards is not a factor. He is nothing more than a place that anti-Hillary votes can go - he does little other than take votes away from Obama.

Obama has a brief history, but the Senator issue does apply to him, in reverse. His votes do not count, but they do point to his lack of experience.

Hillary, has the Senator history that can hurt her.

The Senator-jinx applies to all. The question becomes - can the R's put someone in that can be competitive and make the jinx stick once again.


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