I just got back from the Republican Caucus. Well, actually, I just got back from the Democratic Caucus as well. We got some bad information and showed up at Obama headquarters and spent a few embarrassing minutes figuring out we were at the wrong place. So, we ended up being a few minutes late when we finally got to the Republican Caucus.
The Democratic Caucus process is really complicated. They have “viable” candidates and “non-viable” candidates and revotes and groupings and all sorts of things. The Republican process is much simpler. Each candidate gets five minutes of promotional time. Speakers must be from the precincts which are caucusing. We live in Precinct 29 and caucused together with Precinct 34. The first speaker for each candidate gets three minutes then another may speak for two minutes.
As we got there (a few minutes late) while the speakers were just starting. I will give some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the speeches.
Michelle Bachmann – One young man spoke for Bachmann, emphasizing her faith in God and her commitment to undoing Obama’s policies. He was very soft-spoken and probably didn’t help the cause too much. Bachmann is projected to finish last in the race (except for Huntsman who didn’t even show up here) and will probably drop out of the race soon.
Newt Gingrich – Two speakers spoke on behalf of Newt’s candidacy. The first, a younger woman, emphasized his experience and tried to tie him to Reagan and his policies. The second speaker spent his time addressing Newt’s problems. I thought this was a mistake – to remind people of all the problems that have been raised. The divorces – he mentioned that Newt has now been married for 12 years and has repented of his previous sins. He cataloged some of Newt’s positions that are unpopular and even some of the ethical questions. Again, I think his speech was effective in reminding caucusers that Newt has a lot of baggage.
Ron Paul – One young man spoke for Ron Paul. It was clear he was reading from a written set of remarks. I wondered as I listened if campaigns perhaps give out “talking points” speeches for various caucuses. It was an informational, even inspirational speech read poorly. An appeal from the floor produced no one else that was interested in talking on Paul’s behalf.
John Huntsman – the precinct chair asked if anyone wanted to speak for John Huntsman. One guy raised his hand and shouted, “He has really nice hair.” That was the funniest moment of the caucus.
Rick Perry, Mitt Romney – No one spoke for either of these candidates. I thought that was strange. Romney is one of the leaders and Perry was once a powerful force in the Republican discussion. But no one wanted to speak for either candidate.
Rick Santorum – A chiropractor I know spoke first for Rick Santorum. He made a passionate appeal for Republicans to unite around whomever the candidate is and to defeat Obama. He was followed to the stage by a stunningly handsome Baptist pastor who edits a Southern Baptist blog which shall remain nameless.
I spoke about the struggle I had to select a candidate this time. I had liked Santorum all along but he had been so low in the polls that it seemed almost silly to vote for him. Once he started to surge, I became more enamored with him. I appreciate his character, his conservative stance on social issues, and his record of work in congress.
After that, we voted.
Here is how the vote broke down at our precinct: (300 total ballots cast)
Santorum – 142 votes.
Romney – 57 votes.
Paul – 44 votes
Newt – 40 votes
Perry – 14 votes
Bachmann – 3 votes
Huntsman – 0 Votes.
Of course, those results do not reflect the statewide race which last I checked was pretty much a 3-way tie between Santorum, Romney and Paul. Bachmann’s campaign is pretty much over. Perry is also circling the drain, and unless Newt makes a huge comeback in New Hampshire or South Carolina, he will be close behind.
Paul had a strong “ground-game” and put a lot into organization here in Iowa. His support is not surprising, though it is a little higher than I thought. Romney, right now, is right were he has been all along.
The Iowa caucuses are not about selecting a nominee. They are about thinning the herd. So, coming out of Iowa, here is where things seem to stand.
1) A big deal will be made about who wins. But if the candidates remain as they are now – the top three within a point of two of each other – winning is insignificant. All three of the top candidates get a bounce and a boost.
2) Romney has a huge problem. He is the leading candidate, but consistently, 70 percent of Republicans remain enthusiastic about him and his candidacy. “Anti-Romney” candidates come and go as people switch support from one to the other. But they are not going to Mitt.
3) I still don’t think Ron Paul is viable, but that may be wishful thinking. His supporters are passionate, almost messianic, about him, but I just don’t see the appeal. However, he has shown that at the very least, he cannot be marginalized or ignored.
4) Santorum is in the limelight now. The Santorum surge seems to have been real. He will likely be the big news. Two weeks ago he was polling around 6 percent and now, he may win or at least finish within shouting distance of the top. He’s in the limelight, but he is also now a target. Each time a candidate surged, the political hit-men went to work. In the last couple of days I got a bunch of prerecorded calls telling me how awful Rick Santorum is. Evidently, Rick was mentored by Stalin, probably venerates Hitler as a saint and tortures puppies for sport. I never stayed on long enough to hear who was paying for these calls, but they disgust me.
5) I am SO glad that the caucus is over and all the calls will stop. It has been increasingly annoying even as I grew increasingly interested.
So, this is probably my last political post for a while.
Here is a link to the results, for you political animals.
Latest results – Santorum with 25%, Romney at 24% and Paul at 22%.