The Yepsenity of the day is causing a stir on the political blogs. Yepsen published this post about the so-called “Illinois caucus”:
Barack Obama’s campaign is telling Iowa college students they can caucus for him even if they aren’t from Iowa.
His campaign offers that advice in a brochure being distributed on college campuses in the state. A spokesman said it’s legal and that 50,000 of the fliers are being distributed.
The brochure says: “If you are not from Iowa, you can come back for the Iowa caucus and caucus in your college neighborhood.”
Given that lots of students in Iowa’s colleges and universities are from Obama’s neighboring home state of Illinois, the effort could net him thousands of additional votes on caucus night.
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama’s campaign, said “we have no intention of doing something here that is in any way illegal or that will raise questions about the credibility of the caucuses.” He said election laws allow students to register and vote where they go to college and that means they can caucus in those precincts as well.
That’s fine but these are the Iowa caucuses. Asking people who are “not from Iowa” to participate in them changes the nature of the event.
I think Yepsen is wrong and owes the Obama campaign an apology. Students from other states who attend colleges in Iowa can choose to vote either in their home states or in Iowa. That is well-established.
The Obama brochure is aimed at students attending schools in Iowa. It urges them to come “back” and caucus in their neighborhoods. Clearly they are not trying to bring in thousands of students who are neither from Iowa nor attending school in Iowa.
If the caucuses were on January 21 instead of January 3, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Many students from other states caucused in Iowa City, Ames, and other college towns in 2004. There is nothing unfair about that.
I would hope that all the campaigns are trying to identify college students supporting them and trying to encourage those students to come back to campus to caucus, if their home towns are outside Iowa.
Mike Allen picked up the story for Politico, quoting staffers for other campaigns who tried to imply that Obama is cheating:
A Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign official said: “We are not courting out-of-staters. The Iowa caucus ought to be for Iowans.”
And a Clinton spokesman leveled a thinly-veiled accusation at Obama later in the day.
“We are not systematically trying to manipulate the Iowa caucuses with out-of-state people,” Mo Elleithee said.
“We don’t have literature recruiting out-of-state college students. We didn’t bus in folks from out of state to the [Democratic party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner]. We didn’t bring in out-of-state activists to the Heartland Forum.”
In fact, Clinton is counting on the support of some out-of-state students attending Iowa universities. Sarah Sunderman of Iowa State University, who was announced in a news release as a leader of the “Hill Yea” Students Leaders for Hillary, told the Des Moines Register in October that “she will drive back early from her home in Minnesota to take part in the Jan. 3 caucuses.”
Chris Dodd for President Iowa State Director Julie Andreeff Jensen said in a statement on Saturday:
“I was deeply disappointed to read today about the Obama campaign’s attempt to recruit thousands of out-of-state residents to come to Iowa for the caucuses. … ‘New Politics’ shouldn’t be about scheming to evade either the spirit or the letter of the rules that guide the process. That may be the way politics is played in Chicago, but not in Iowa.”
I see no evidence Obama’s campaign is trying to get volunteers from other states to come here for a short time and then caucus on January 3.
Julie Andreeff Jensen worked on John Kerry’s campaign in Iowa before the last caucuses. She must be aware that there were college students from other states who caucused for Kerry.
Shame on the Clinton staffer who accused Obama of trying to “manipulate” the caucuses. It is totally legitimate to encourage your own supporters to come back to their college campuses for caucus night.
If Obama wins the caucuses, Hillary’s going to have to come up with a better excuse.