Fraud did not determine the winner of the Iowa caucuses

Every once in a while on one of the national political blogs, a supporter of Hillary Clinton or John Edwards will assert that Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses by busing in thousands of ineligible voters from out of state.

As any regular reader of this blog knows, I am no fan of Obama, and I’ve strongly criticized some aspects of the Iowa caucus system.

But I have yet to encounter any serious observer of Iowa politics who believes Obama won Iowa by cheating. I have been talking to many volunteers for the Clinton and Edwards campaigns in Iowa, and a few staffers, while researching a future diary on how those candidates might have beaten Obama here. Literally no one I’ve talked with has claimed that Obama did not legitimately win the caucuses.

No doubt there were some people from out of state who fraudulently registered to vote here on caucus night. I’ve heard that may have been a particular problem in some areas of Scott County. But I haven’t seen any evidence that the Obama campaign orchestrated any fraud, and there’s no way the cheaters were numerous enough to account for Obama’s margin of victory here.

If you don’t believe me, read this story from the Des Moines Register: Caucuses drew few ineligible voters:

The Register review of voter registration data from all 99 counties reveals a low rate of new voter applications filled out on caucus night by people whose addresses later could not be verified.

Only 1.5 percent of the new voter identification cards mailed to voters who registered on caucus night were returned to county auditors as undeliverable. That’s an indication that the vast majority of new caucus-night voters had a bona fide address in Iowa.

State officials say the low error rate is impressive, especially since caucus-night turnout vastly exceeded expectations and overwhelmed local party officials around the state.

The other argument I hear from the occasional conspiracy theorist on a different blog is that Obama’s campaign bused in large numbers of students from out of state. First, that would have affected turnout in a relatively small number of Iowa’s 1,800 precincts.

Second, as long as those students attend Iowa colleges and live in state most of the year, I have no problem with a campaign helping them get back to their campuses in early January. What’s the qualitative difference between that and my giving someone in my neighborhood a ride to the caucus if he or she can’t drive?

The caucuses never should have been scheduled during the winter vacation of most colleges anyway.  

  • The reason Obama won Iowa: Kerry

    Had I known back then that Kerry was behind Obama, it would’ve been easy to understand why Obama won Iowa.

    I worked on the Kerry campaign’s Iowa caucus plan in 2003-2004, and it was unbeatable. We took the country by surprise in that caucus, didn’t we?

    I’m not working on a campaign this year, though. So I didn’t know who was backing whom from the start.

    Kerry’s tried-and-true caucus strategy has worked well for Obama, but it hasn’t translated into slam-dunk primary victories.  

    • as a former Kerry precinct captain

      I don’t agree.

      The Obama caucus strategy was very different from Kerry’s–it was more like the Dean strategy of mobilizing new voters (only Obama’s campaign pulled it off).

      I think the Edwards campaign was trying to duplicate Kerry’s strategy from 2004, and the Edwards and Clinton campaigns both underestimated Obama’s potential here because they didn’t believe so many first-time caucus-goers would show up on a cold January night.

You need to signin or signup to post a comment.