Chase Martyn has the story:
The leadership of the Iowa Democratic Party will recommend scheduling the caucuses for January 3, the same night as the Republican caucuses.
On the one hand, this reduces the potential for mischief as Republicans will not be able to switch parties en masse in order to influence the outcome on our side.
On the other hand, logistically this will be a nightmare. It will be hard to do last-minute voter contacts, and parking will be in short supply at sites likely to be used by both parties on caucus night (such as schools). How many people want to walk several blocks on a cold, dark night to caucus?
Turnout is likely to be lower as the holiday season burns people out and makes GOTV difficult.
- No colleges or universities will have ended their winter breaks by this date. Conventional wisdom is that this will make Sen. Barack Obama's campaign to organize students difficult, but the payoffs of a good student organization will be larger if students are spread out across multiple cities rather than concentrated in a few big precincts.
- This is only three days into the New Year. Some Iowans will be out of town for the week, and many others will be just returning to town.
- This date is less than two weeks after Christmas. The final two weeks of the caucus season are often filled with wall-to-wall television ads, some of which are negative. How Iowans will react to attack ads on Christmas is unknown. Candidates also typically leave a few days around the holidays to stop bothering caucus-goers with phone calls and public appearances, but that may not be possible with this schedule.
- Moving up the caucus date may benefit Sen. John Edwards, who will not have to stretch his money in Iowa for an additional two weeks.
I could make a case for any of the major contenders benefiting from this date. Hillary could benefit if more men than women stay home to watch the college football championship game on January 3.
I read today that Obama's people believe they will benefit from the fact that Iowa is a "net exporter" of college students. Many native Iowans who attend schools in other states will still be home with their parents on January 3 and will be able to help Obama reach the viability threshold in a larger number of precincts. That is an interesting theory.
I would think that Edwards would benefit from a date that would weed out all but the most politically engaged Iowans. If you are a general-election voter who normally skips primaries, I really think you're not going to caucus for the first time in your life on January 3. People just want to stay in after the holiday season.
Also, if Edwards wins Iowa, he will have a few more days of media attention and time to parlay that into gains in New Hampshire.
The big question in my mind is this: given that phone-banking and door-knocking during the holiday season is likely to irritate people, will this early date neutralize the organizational advantages that the major campaigns have? All of those field offices and the army of volunteers will pretty much have their hands tied during the last ten days of December, with no time to contact many people after New Year's.
Will the candidates with stronger organizations benefit more from the GOTV they were able to do in November and early December? Or will they have less opportunity to use their organizations to turn out the leaners they need?
What do you think?