2012 Iowa caucus results thread

This thread is for sharing stories from your precinct caucus meetings as well as for discussing the results once they have been reported.

Iowa Republicans and Democrats, I’m particularly interested to know how many candidates for Congress or the state legislature addressed your caucus, or had a campaign representative greet caucus-goers and speak on their behalf. GOP Congressional challenger Rod Blum is planning to meet Republicans in two IA-01 counties instead of caucusing in his home town of Dubuque. GOP Representative Tom Latham, who is running against Leonard Boswell next year in IA-03, claims to have lined up leaders in all 384 precincts across the district. Steve King’s challenger, Christie Vilsack, is speaking to all Democratic caucus-goers in Story County’s sole caucus location, Ames High School.

UPDATE: Adding results after the jump.

9:00 pm update: It’s too close to call, with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both hovering around 24 percent, and Ron Paul around 22 percent.

I haven’t seen any overall turnout numbers for Republicans, but the votes reported seem low so far. IowaPolitics.com has a map showing results from all 99 counties here. LATE UPDATE: IowaPolitics.com no longer exists, but the same map can be found here.

According to KCCI TV, the GOP is on track to have lower turnout than in January 2008. There are only about 50,000 votes from the roughly 50 percent of precincts that have reported so far.

Reporting on my Democratic caucus experience: I thought President Barack Obama’s address by video was quite effective. I’ve never been particularly moved by his “great speeches,” like the “Yes we can” speech after the New Hampshire primary. Tonight he spoke in a very conversational, almost intimate style. I will post the video or transcript if I can find it later.

After Obama’s speech, they unfortunately wasted people’s time on a couple of useless questions asked by volunteers in Coralville and Cedar Rapids. The questions were along the lines of, “How can you explain to voters what an awesome job you’re doing, and how can we help you with that?” A bunch of precincts on the west side of Polk County were crammed into a Valley High School room that was way too small for the crowd. It was hot and stuffy, and they should have let people move on to their precinct rooms immediately after the president’s initial remarks.

Iowa Senate district 22 candidate Desmund Adams addressed our gathering shortly before Obama’s video speech. I thought Adams presented himself extremely well, and I’ll write more about what he said in a forthcoming post on the Senate district 22 race.

In my precinct, the chair attempted to move directly to the election of county convention delegates. I had a feeling that would happen when I saw the Iowa Democratic Party’s agenda for this evening. I had to request to speak on behalf of uncommitted, and she frankly did not look happy about that. But several of my neighbors did agree to stand with me, so we were able to get one uncommitted delegate to the Polk County convention.

I haven’t seen any numbers from the Iowa Democratic Party regarding the uncommitted results from other precincts. The IDP promised a couple of weeks ago to release that information.

Shortly after 10 pm, it’s still too close to call between Romney and Santorum. Ron Paul gave his concession speech, as it was clear he would finish in third place. He expressed pride in having one of three tickets out of Iowa, and he described himself as one of only two Republican candidates who can run a “viable national campaign” for president. That’s a dig at Santorum, but I would expect a lot of money to roll toward Santorum now that he is a leading “not Romney.”

Gingrich gave his speech a little before 10:30. He vowed to battle on for a long time, sharply criticized Romney and Paul. He vowed not to run negative television commercials: “We are not going to go out and run nasty ads…but, I do reserve the right to tell the truth.”

Open Secrets reported about $782,200 in Iowa spending by the pro-Gingrich super-PAC Winning Our Future during the past few weeks. I wonder how much they will be able and willing to spend supporting him in the early primary states.

State Senator Brad Zaun is introduced Michele Bachmann at 10:30, urging her to “take it to South Carolina, take it to New Hampshire, take it to Florida.” She’s speaking now and doesn’t sound like she is dropping out of the race.

Democratic turnout statewide appears to have been only around 10 percent of the 2008 turnout. I’ve heard from several Polk County Democrats who had 10 or fewer attendees in their precincts. The Iowa Democratic Party released this statement from chair Sue Dvorsky:

“Tonight’s caucus successfully brought our supporters together, and we’re overwhelmed that more than 25,000 Iowans turned out to talk about the President’s record and vision for an economy that restores security for the middle class.  We not only saw how excited Iowans are to support President Obama, but to also work for his reelection.   The Iowa caucus was a great opportunity to test our campaign organization and expand our volunteer base as we move toward November.  In a strong show of support, more than 7,500 Iowans tonight pledged to volunteer for the campaign over the course of the next year, underscoring their commitment to continuing the change the country has seen under President Obama’s leadership.”

I’d be more impressed if I didn’t know that roughly 50,000 Iowa Democrats showed up to caucus in 1996, when President Bill Clinton was unopposed for the nomination.

I don’t know what was the bigger problem: lack of enthusiasm for President Obama or the Iowa Democratic Party’s decision to consolidate so many precinct caucuses in central locations. Many counties had just one caucus site for the whole county.

Shortly before 11, fifth-place finisher Rick Perry spoke to his supporters. He got a little choked up reading a letter from one of his campaign volunteers aloud. I expected him to say he would go straight to South Carolina, but Perry said he would return to Texas, “assess the results” and determine whether there is “a path forward” for his candidacy. I wonder how much campaign cash he has left.

Santorum speaking to supporters around 11:15 pm: beings by saying, “Game on.”

Looks like Romney will win by a few hundred votes; most of the outstanding precincts are in more urban counties. But Santorum can still credibly claim victory.

Check that: as of about 11:40 pm, 99 percent of results are in, and Santorum leads Romney by five votes. Ridiculously close.

Romney started his speech around 11:40. Made clear that even though we don’t know the final totals, he considers it a victory. Like Santorum, he gave a little-changed version of his stump speech.

He has to be very happy that Rick Perry seems to be out of the race, and the latest “not Romney” has hardly any campaign cash.

At 12:45 am, one precinct remains to be counted, and Santorum leads Romney by 29,968 votes to 29,964. In 2008 Romney placed a distant second in Iowa with 29,949 votes.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATES: Final numbers from the Iowa GOP:

Romney 30,015 votes (25 percent)

Santorum 30,007 votes (25 percent)

Paul 26,219 (21 percent)

Gingrich 16,251 (13 percent)

Perry 12,604 (10 percent)

Bachmann 6,073 (5 percent)

Huntsman 745 (1 percent)

Looks like Santorum won a plurality of votes in 62 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Paul carried 18 according to this map at IowaPolitics.com, but one of those (Louisa) was actually a tie with Santorum. Romney carried 17 counties, and Perry carried two (Union and Taylor).

The Iowa Democratic Party posted county delegate totals for each county here. At this writing, only 93 percent of results are in. Obama has about 98.5 percent of the state delegate equivalents, while “other” has 1.5 percent. I will update later when the chart reflects all 100 percent of Iowa Democratic precinct results.

Bachmann suspended her presidential campaign at a West Des Moines press conference. Excerpt from her remarks:

I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. And I told you the truth that our country is in very serious trouble, and that this might be the last election to turn the nation around before we go down the road to socialism […] I didn’t tell you what the polls said that you wanted to hear. I didn’t tell you what I knew to be false. I didn’t try to spin you. I listened to the people of Iowa and all across America, and they agreed that President Obama and his socialist policies must be stopped […]

Last night the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice and so I have decided to stand aside. And I believe that if we are going to repeal Obamacare, turn our country around and take back our country, we must do so united. And I believe that we must rally around the person that our country and our party and our people select to be that standard-bearer. But make no mistake: I will continue to be a strong voice. I will continue to stand and fight.

FINAL UPDATE: For county-level Republican results, this map at a site run by the Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG-TV is user-friendly. Santorum won a plurality of votes in the following 62 counties: Adair, Appanoose, Audubon, Benton, Boone, Buchanan, Butler, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Davis, Delaware, Des Moines, Emmet, Floyd, Franklin, Greene, Guthrie, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Harrison, Henry, Howard, Humboldt, Ida, Iowa, Jasper, Keokuk, Kossuth, Lucas, Lyon, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Marshall, Mills, Monona, Monroe, Montgomery, O’Brien, Osceola, Page, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Ringgold, Sac, Shelby, Sioux, Tama, Wapello, Warren, Wayne, Webster, Winnebago, Woodbury, Worth, and Wright.

Romney won a plurality of votes in the following 17 counties: Bremer, Cerro Gordo, Clinton, Dallas, Dickinson, Dubuque, Fayette, Fremont, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Muscatine, Plymouth, Polk, Pottawattamie, Scott, and Story.

Paul won a plurality of votes in the following 17 counties: Adams, Allamakee, Black Hawk, Buena Vista, Cedar, Chickasaw, Clarke, Clayton, Decatur, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Mitchell, Poweshiek, Van Buren, Washington, and Winneshiek.

Perry won a plurality of votes in Union and Taylor Counties.

Santorum and Paul tied in Louisa County. In many counties only a handful of votes separated first place from second place.

Bleeding Heartland covered the final Democratic caucus results here.

About the Author(s)


  • Rural Johnson County Republican Caucus

    I’m normally a Democrat but tonight I registered Republican to caucus in rural Johnson County.

    I was surprised that nobody wanted to speak for Bachmann until finally someone stood up to speak for her.  Unsurprisingly no one spoke in support for Huntsman.

    It seemed to me that Romney was going to run away with the caucus but I left before the votes were counted. I’m not sure how representative of Iowa this precinct is as a number of my neighbors are Morman and were there with Romney stickers.  

    I saw no congressional or state legislature candidates in our caucus location.

    I’m curious if other districts had Ab Bo on the board of candidates (it was claimed to stand for Anybody But Obama).

    I’m fairly new to Iowa so this was just my second caucus in 2008 I caucused for Obama.  I must say that the Republican caucuses were much more subdued and had a much lower turnout than the Democrats did in 2008.  Again this may just be my district.

  • Uncommitted delegate

    Only two voters appeared for my rural precinct–me and an Obama fan.  She let me become the delegate to the county convention after concluding that my uncommitted slap at Obama really would do no harm in the long run.

    I wonder how Dvorsky knows the turnout. Turnout was not reported via the touch tone reporting protocol.  She does not know that there were only two of us.  She knows only that our one delegate is not for Obama.

    Our whole county gathered in one place, expecting a tiny turnout.  We offered a chili supper and a local guest speaker on the closing of four rural polls in future elections.  This agenda may explain our “large” turnout of 36 people for the county(Pocahontas).

    No one spoke on behalf of any candidates.  No one was asked to answer Obama’s self-promotion speech.

    • maybe she'll make it up

      I wonder how Dvorsky knows the turnout

      We offered a chili supper. No one was asked to answer Obama’s self-promotion speech.

      Sounds like you had a good time.

    • turnout

      was reported from the site level not the precinct level. I didn’t like it either. Reportedly that idea came from Chicago not Des Moines

  • It's Romney in a walk

    It seems to me Romney has aced this race tonight.  Why are the pundits so timid about saying so?

    Santorum has neither money nor staff to carry on.  He won mainly because no one had time to gear up criticism of him.  Paul has only the grassroots of a small corner of the electorate.  It’s pretty much over.

    • agree

      just waiting to see if it’s Rubio or Martinez on the ticket. Obama is going to have his hands full.

      The pundits don’t want this wrapped up. Ratings, viewers.

      • Romney has a good chance in the general

        Agree, Obama will have his hands full. They will go hard after his Warren Buffet-like tax return (high income, low effective tax rate) and Bain capital shutting down factories, but if Romney makes the election about whether you were better off four years ago, Obama has a tough case to make.

  • We needed to touch the hem of the garment

    I get that Obama/Plouffe/Quaxelrod probably wanted to keep The Big Guy above the fray. But Bill Clinton did pre-caucus weekend here in 1996 and we filled Carver-Hawkeye. Sorry but the video link just didn’t cut it. Heck, even sending Joe would have helped.

  • 25K is grim

    don’t care how it gets spun.

    What makes me laugh is the over-the-top reaction to mild dissent from polite Iowans. This is nothing. I hear things like “M-*-er,” “fraud” and “sellout” all the time.

    I know most won’t agree here, but dealing w/ lack of enthusiasm head on might be a very good thing for the DP. I’m already tired of the slick presentations on social media bait and drill-down demographics. Back to basics, I say.

  • My precinct results.

    16 people present. 13 for Obama, 3 for uncommitted (including me).

    Delegates: 6 for Obama, 1 for uncommitted.

    Had I not been there, it would have been a shutout (7-0)

  • She started speaing, and then she was interrupted by...

    …the live feed from the President.

    Christie Vilsack, is speaking to all Democratic caucus-goers in Story County’s sole caucus location, Ames High School.

    After that, some guy spoke for a while for Obama (“Yes we can!”…”I’m in!” call and response).

    Some folks cried “Cristie” when he was first introduced, since her speech was not completed.

    After he was done with his Obama pitch, Cristy was allowed to finish her speech.

  • Romney wins!

    8 votes, according to DMR.

  • Meh.

    They completely lost me when they claimed “Yes We Can” was coined in Iowa.  

    Lo ciento, pero soy habla espanol.  Stealing “Si se puede” from the UFW without sourcing it just comes off cheap and disingenuous.  

    When former Lt. Gov. Sally Peterson got up and started spouting that shit at our caucus site, I got up to give her a “mic check”. My wife insisted I sit down.

    Meh. No institutional memory.  No Labor present.  This ain’t the Democratic Party I signed up for and hasn’t been for decades.    

  • Meh.

    They completely lost me when they claimed “Yes We Can” was coined in Iowa.  

    Lo ciento, pero soy habla espanol.  Stealing “Si se puede” from the UFW without sourcing it just comes off cheap and disingenuous.  

    When former Lt. Gov. Sally Peterson got up and started spouting that shit at our caucus site, I got up to give her a “mic check”. My wife insisted I sit down.

    Meh. No institutional memory.  No Labor present.  This ain’t the Democratic Party I signed up for and hasn’t been for decades.    

  • uncommitted delegates from my caucus

    1/3 of all the attendees at my Dem caucus chose to be “uncommitted” and we were able to choose 4 of the 12 delegates to move forward, including one on the Platform Committee. We had a chance to speak and even, at our request, to mingle to attempt to persuade each other to move to the “other” perspective. No=one moved. To me, the conversation was valuable, however.  

  • Yes, we can......

    Meh is right. I organized/volunteered for the UFW (United Farm Workers) for 7 years in California and yes, Si se puede! (Yes, we can!) was a slogan the UFW coined and is still using!  It was NOT invented by the Obama campaign nor in Iowa.  

  • Urbandale - Demos

    Yes there are Democrats in Urbandale.  Mostly, they must meet in secret lest they be discovered, but they boldly caucused in public last night at Urbandale Middle School.  Eyeballing it – maybe 400 there.  Atty General Tom Miller held forth, then got cut off by The President. After that, we went to separate classrooms by precinct.  About 30 in our room. Elected county delegates, alternates and committee members. Two resolutions, on independent judiciary, and feeding the hungry internationally, passed unanimously and without discussion. In fact, no discussion on anything, including uncommitted delegates. Donations collected.  Good night, drive safely.

  • fraud?

    being forced to follow the Iowa Caucuses from Germany without American Cable TV I’m mostly relying on newspapers and blogs. I tried to read through the liveblogging of the results at dailykos elections and found a lot of commentators suggesting irregularities, even fraud.

    Is this only the usual kossite chatter or do you see any irregularities in the reporting maybe even attempts by the iowa republican party to give romney a whatsoever small winning margin.

    • haven't followed it closely

      The Iowa GOP was tabulating results from all the precincts at some “undisclosed location.” Supposedly the votes at the precinct level were counted in the presence of several candidates’ representatives, who then listened in to make sure the precinct chair called in the right numbers. With such a small margin between Santorum or Romney, the smallest tabulation error could make a difference. My understanding is that there is no recount procedure for the Republican caucuses, which makes sense since the ballots probably weren’t stored in secure locations.

      I am more focused on why (as of 2:30 pm on Wednesday) the Iowa Democratic Party still hasn’t reported complete results from a number of counties, including Polk, Johnson, and Jefferson.

      • Sue Dvorsky and Debbie Wasserman Schultz

        why (as of 2:30 pm on Wednesday) the Iowa Democratic Party still hasn’t reported

        have sequestered a handful of uncommitted delegates in an undisclosed location where they are administering the rubber hose treatment while looping through BO speeches in the background. Norm Sterzenbach is the lookout. This will continue until morale improves.

        “All you need to do is say Obama 2012 like you mean it, and this stops.”

        • I see that Lee County is outstanding

          we might have to go save ModerateIADem.

          • Not sure what happened there

            The only GOP candidate signs I saw in Keokuk was Dr. Paul.  I know of several people who showed up to our caucus saying family members were planning to vote for Romney.  I would have been interested to hear whether or not Huntsman had a supporter in Keokuk to speak for him.  

        • A question

          I am a newbee, so forgive this question if it is a dumb one.  No one in my precinct volunteered to be a delegate to the county convention, so I did.  No one asked me who I supported, but I am going uncommitted.  Can I do that and what will happen when I show up and announce same?

          • my understanding

            is that you can do whatever you want. In 2008, lots of the county convention delegates elected as Edwards supporters in their precincts switched to Obama or Clinton at the county conventions.

            I can’t guarantee that no one will challenge you at your county convention, but I am not aware of any party rules that require you to support Obama there. Perhaps someone else with more experience at the county conventions will reply to your comment.

            • Not Here

              In Johnson every. single. Edwards. person. stuck together. Heck I think they picked up a couple from Richardson. They even elected a national delegate at the 2nd District.

              • I know Edwards delegates from Polk County

                who switched to either Obama or Clinton. Even though he hadn’t endorsed at that time, they figured it was pointless to stand for someone who was out of the race. In Johnson County, you had rock-solid David Redlawsk keeping everyone in line…

          • you're the delegate

            and you can change or declare preference at the convention if you like. But if Uncom doesn’t have 15% of the convention, it’s not a group.

            • okay

              thanks, all, for the info.  I plan to stand uncommitted, and if I get beaten with a hose, I’ll just imagine I am in Chicago 1968.

              • us party regulars

                don’t bite, and you’ll get more support on the platform stuff than you might think. Thanks for caucusing with the Dems.

  • And here ya go


    See? No Massive Secret Sue Dvorsky Coverup Conspiracy in Johnson. Just some human errors from the locals. Some rural precincts without chairs and a hard working couple who wasn’t quite sure what to do with the extra packets, a family emergency in a student precinct, and a precinct chair who went out for a late dinner with his wife and forgot to call until 4 AM.

    And these late results that the Dvorsky Mafia was supposedly “covering up” actually increased Obama’s delegate percentage by 0.2% (Early 163-19, final 202-23) My friend Sue deserves an apology for the implication that she’s corrupt, but I understand the frustration so I won’t ask that.

    Johnson County was fair. We (by that I mean me, personally, on my own time and skipping a friend’s funeral to do it) explained the process to the uncommitteds. We bent the rules to let them speak to the large groups. I let them talk in my own precinct until a couple Obama people gave up and went home to break a delegate math deadlock. And even with all that, in the state’s most lefty county, Uncommitted could not reach 15 percent viability. (Though I expect Johnson County convention viability due to attrittion)

    There was a lot of noise, some of it for good reasons of policy, some of it because we screwed up and were unfair about the numbers in 1996. Some people in some places didn’t know the rules, and maybe some people didn’t make as much effort on that as Johnson did.

    But you CANNOT argue that there is a critical mass, or even significant, opposition to the president’s renomination. If Uncommitted was a candidate, she’d be dropping out and going home with her wife Marcus. We are the 98 percent, give or take a decimal point.

    Thanks to everybody who did the right thing and stayed with the Democrats, Obama or Uncommitted, on Tuesday. I was a downballot candidate in a presidential year so I know this: The fate of the Democratic Party in this presidential year is linked to the fate of President Obama. The statement has been heard. Constructive criticism is always welcome. But the alternative is not President Sanders or President Kucinich. The Alternative is President Romney or President Santorum. Now it’s time to unite to win.

    • I'm glad to know

      that in Johnson County, people were given the opportunity to speak on behalf of uncommitted. It didn’t happen in several Polk County precincts I have heard about. It sure as hell would not have happened in my precinct if I hadn’t spoken up. After I interrupted her attempt to go straight to electing delegates, my precinct chair grudgingly told me she would give me “one minute” to speak. (I said what I’d been planning to say, probably took three minutes–she didn’t interrupt.)

      Overall caucus turnout was poor, so uncommitted should have been able to do better. We weren’t organized enough. I should have made more phone calls to people who were sympathetic to caucusing uncommitted. If I had warned my friend that she needed to speak up before delegate selection, her group probably would have been viable. They only needed four for viability in her precinct, and she already had herself, her husband and her son.

      The Occupy people who were getting arrested outside candidate HQ should have been organizing 3-5 people for uncommitted in each Polk County precinct. That would have been enough for viability in most places.

      Totally agree that the fate of down-ticket Democrats is linked to President Obama. I am concerned that he will drag many people down with him. If he does, it won’t be because of lefty Democrats like me, it will be because of things like his administration’s incompetence/corruption in dealing with the foreclosure mess.

    • nothing to apologize for

      I asked the IDP several times when all the precinct-level numbers would be forthcoming. Didn’t get a call back or an explanation for the delay until this morning.

      If Sue Dvorsky is worried about the implication that she is covering anything up, maybe she should release Democratic caucus attendance information beyond the “more than 25,000” figure she claimed for the whole state.

      Not only was I refused details on attendance at the caucus site level, I was refused even total caucus attendance numbers for each county. I didn’t have any nefarious plan, just wanted to calculate the caucus attendance in each Congressional district.

      Republicans reveal the total number of caucus-goers per county; doing so doesn’t cause any problems with New Hampshire’s primary. Treating that information like a state secret makes the IDP look bad.

      • Sue probably doesn't care

        I do, because you were clearly implying that uncommitted numbers were deliberately being covered up.

        Is it fair to say we could have done better, responded faster? Sure. But remember, at the local level this is an all-volunteer show, and that was the issue: locals, not Des Moines. I spent  last night chasing down our straggler precincts. I’m off to our central committee meeting in two hours to talk about what we could have done better. Saturday morning we dig through our packets to start on platform and credentials and nomination papers. Plan the work, work the plan.

        And remember almost no one is interested outside the readers of Iowa political blogs. And the reason for that is that there weren’t enough people interested in going uncommitted to make it newsworthy. There weren’t enough people to demand the speaking time and the clarification of the rules, or to get the national press interested in the results. If anything, uncommitteds and occupiers and protests have gathered FAR more than two percent of the Democratic news.

        The GOP had a more elaborate results operation because PEOPLE WERE INTERESTED. Don’t forget: when Republicans have an incumbent president, they cancel their vote. Ask Pat Buchanan `92 about that.

        • what is the justification

          for not releasing the number of Democratic caucus attendees, even if few people care outside the small number of Iowa politics blog readers?  

        • I'll make you a deal

          I will apologize publicly to Sue Dvorsky right after she apologizes publicly to Iowa Democrats like my friend, the people who put on bumper stickers, put out yard signs, stuff envelopes, always vote, always caucus, bring their kids to rallies.

          Even if “no one cares,” what did people like my friend ever do to Sue Dvorsky? My friend hosted two Obama field organizers at a house party in 2007 and volunteered for the Obama general election campaign. She didn’t “demand the speaking time and the clarification of the rules” on Tuesday night, because it never occurred to her that her precinct chair, a neighbor and good Democrat, would manipulate the process to skip over the division into preference groups. My friend has attended three Democratic caucuses in the Des Moines area and was sitting patiently, waiting for her chance to speak up for uncommitted.

          She was tricked because the people in charge of the IDP deliberately wrote the caucus agenda in a way that would silence most people with doubts about Obama. And for what? So Sue Dvorsky could boast in a press release that the president won 98.5 percent of the delegates, instead of 98 percent or 97 percent or, heaven forbid, 96 percent.

          Any day now, the paid phone bankers for the IDP will probably call my friend asking for a donation.

          • LOL

            Any day now, the paid phone bankers for the IDP will probably call my friend asking for a donation.

    • IMO,

      most of the loudmouths associated with the “uncommitted” effort were looking for cheap publicity and face time. A lesson learned here is that the more serious types are going to have to get on the stick next time to organize well in advance and not let publicity hounds make all the noise. Twitter accounts and fb pages don’t cut it — they are merely an illusion of enhanced coverage and communication. I could argue that reliance on social media has the opposite effect, but that’s for another day.

      However, it’s hard to give the IDP brownie points. Whether this go-round or the last time, the Dem caucus has a decidedly “ancient Chinese secret” air about it, which is its biggest weakness. Local oopsies are just the kind of thing that non-fans of the caucus process are likely to home in on.

      I don’t think you can make any kind of statement about support for PBO based on this event. In 2006, I was living in Steny Hoyer’s district. He ran unopposed, but a Green w/o a budget and no name recc took something like 17% of the primary vote, and there was no publicized anti-Steny effort. If you had asked the average Democrat, you’d have heard that Hoyer is loved and respected.

      It’s hypocrisy for Iowa Democrats to argue for early voting, lack of photo id, to facilitate participation but then to turn around and claim that the caucus process is somehow representative of where Democrats are at. The truth is that it was made perfectly clear that the IDP would harness all inertial aspects of the caucus process in favor of a top-down declaration of unity behind PBO. A 17% anti-Hoyer vote happened because a primary facilitated registering displeasure w/ the status quo and the secret ballot assured that the incumbent was unable to exact revenge. Here, you had county-level Democratic organizations openly challenging any would-be uncommitted caucusers.

      • Where was the challenger?

        Jimmy Carter got a challenge from the strongest possible challenger. LBJ got challenged right out of office. If there had been a critical mass of dissent in the party, someone would have taken the opportunity. If Hillary thought the ship was sinking, you know damn well she’d mutiny.

        But there wasn’t even a token protest style challenge. What else does Russ Feingold have to do? Dennis Kucinich got gerrymandered out of office, he’s got nothing to lose except time at home with his lovely wife. But instead he’s fighting an uphill fight on a colleague’s turf to keep his seat. Nobody. Nuthin.’

        Argue about the exact percentages and the distortions of caucus math, fair enough. But we’re just arguing about how many delegates can dance on the head of a pin. The reality is that despite a lot of frustration on specific issues, despite wishes that he would fight more and compromise less, even if for some it’s only lesser of two evils, Democrats in Iowa and nationwide overwhelmingly support the president personally and want to see him re-elected.

        • I already wrote a long comment on this.

          If there had been a critical mass of dissent in the party, someone would have taken the opportunity

          doing so is tantamount to blowing up the Dem party. If you’ve lived in the upper Midwest most of your life, you may not have a strong feel for this, but that’s just the way it is.

          You can just go ahead and split the Maryland Democratic party in two if Obama were challenged. This almost happened in 2006 w/ Cardin-Steele. The tension was unbelievable. Nationwide, Dems heavily depend on the African American vote for state house and federal seats. Lose just a small fraction of AA support AND THERE IS NO DEM PARTY. I don’t know how to make this more clear. It is very tough to challenge the first African American president. That’s not the same as being happy with his leadership and policies.

          You also stipulate “a critical mass.” Define. I would not make this a requirement. The point to a campaign is to attain critical mass.

          Democrats in Iowa and nationwide overwhelmingly support the president personally and want to see him re-elected.

          I could pick any nr of polls. CBS/Dec: only 77% Dems think Obama deserves to be re-elected. That’s almost 1/4 the party, which is >>>>>> 1.5%.

          Your assumptions are false. I don’t understand why you demand evidence of some sort of mass movement to remove Obama from office. It can start w/ a challenge where the challenger makes the case to Dems why he/she is a better standard-bearer. Maybe Dems will agree, maybe not. However, the reason we won’t know is because of the instant party rupture that would occur, far more severe than any disunity in the past.

          Uncommitted does not mean “off with his head.” It means “not a fall-in-line Dem,” and it means taking responsibility to pressure on policy.  

          • You seem to imply

            that the main reason there is no challenger to Obama is the fact that he’s African-American. It is a valid and interesting point, and I’m sure it played a role in Obama not getting a challenger. But I would argue it is not the biggest factor. I think most D politicians (probably Hillary included) and Democratic voters realize that Obama was dealt a truly rotten hand – politically worse than FDR, since FDR was elected after the economy hit rock bottom. I suspect most Democrats realize it is unlikely any other D politician could have done much better or differently under the same circumstances. – In short, I’m with John on this one.

            The ideological purists and progressive advocates will never be satisfied with any Democrat who has the capability to win the presidency in post 1980-world. But that’s a whole other discussion.

            • Charlie Cook:

              “Who wants to feel responsible for costing the first African-American president his reelection?” says Cook. What’s more, blacks vote heavily in key primary states.


              Anyone contemplating a run against Obama must consider the consequences of not only defeating the president, but the likely repercussions to his or her own career. “If he were white, he would have a progressive challenger,” says Bill Schneider of the Democratic group Third Way. Because Obama is this historic figure, challenging him would hamper the prospects of anyone who wants a future in elective Democratic politics. “Blacks would be deeply offended by a challenge, and that’s no way to score points in the Democratic Party,” says Schneider. African-Americans are the Democrats’ most loyal constituency, and while they too are disappointed in what Obama has been able to accomplish, they are not going to abandon him.

              add to this that it is difficult to take down a sitting president. Your description of politicians taking a dovish “he was dealt a bad hand” view to a challenge does not ring true to me. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say.

              I would say another factor is just fear of an extreme Republican winning the presidency as a result. Nobody wants to be responsible for that, either.

              But what is remarkable to me is that our conversation is rooted in something else. Uncommitted is not an “off with his head” challenge. It’s a mild rebuke, and for some reason, it appears some of you are insisting — see, look at the 1.5%, that’s about it for the “crazy complainers and purists.” Pew during the summer found that only 60% of Democrats did not want a primary challenge, and that doesn’t even say that 60% would take umbrage at caucusing uncommitted!

              The ideological purists and progressive advocates will never be satisfied with any Democrat who has the capability to win the presidency in post 1980-world.

              He had a mandate for what he campaigned on. I believe that’s what uncommitted voters have on their mind. By criticizing them as “ideological purists” you’re saying that you prefer today’s lackluster polling and foot-dragging lack of enthusiasm to the heady and hopeful days of November 2008.  

              • Yes, politics ain't beanbag

                and that’s why, if the ambitious and smart D politicians had seen a realistic opening with the rank and file, they would have gone after Obama, no matter what Cook says. 95% of the country ain’t like Steny’s district or Maryland, and we all remember the PA and OH primaries of ’08 and Obama’s vulnerability with certain large factions of the party. I just think it’s hard for any D politician to make a realistic case for significant difference or problem with the Obama record. A slightly larger stimulus, a health law with different details and one or two different cabinet appointments don’t make for a strong argument to unseat a sitting president. And at the end of the day, most D’s realize the truthfulness of the “it could have been much worse” Obama argument and the fact that “the heady and hopeful days of November 2008” (and especially campaign rhetoric prior to the September 2008 collapse) were much different from the reality of the economic freefall we saw in early 2009.

                Like I said before, I’m sure Obama’s race played a role in him not getting a challenger. Surely it is one factor any potential challenger would have been thinking about. But I find it difficult to believe that he would definitely have gotten a progressive challenger if he was white. Besides my arguments, your points about taking on a sitting president and possibly being responsible for R victory are significant considerations.

                And really, can you say with a straight face that a politician that could realistically be elected in the United States today could ever be embraced enthusiastically by the liberal ideological purists or progressive advocates? There is a very good and real reason we don’t have President Feingold or Kucinich, but we’ve had Clinton, Obama and Carter. Not to mention that anyone who believes all the campaign rhetoric and promises of a political candidate is a true novice or extremely naive. (But I admit that this is a bigger problem for Obama because of his unusually high-flying rhetoric. It was bound to disappoint many.)

                To me, the bottom line is: In economic times like this, you have a lot of unhappy people, and much of that unhappiness is directed toward the president. As of now, I feel Obama has less than a 50% chance to win in November. But 11 months of economic data like today, and we (or at least I) could be celebrating a landslide victory in November.

      • Changing places

        In 2006 I was attending Mark Warner and John Edwards events in Iowa, now I live in Steny Hoyer’s district. Talk about completely different kinds of political worlds! In many ways I love being in my bluer than blue district. But on balance, this one party domination is not a good thing. For real change around here, we need more than a 17% protest Green vote in the primary.

        • Steny

          some good things about him. He’s very good on the environment, as are most MD Dems, esp compared to the rest of the nation. Marylanders take this for granted.

          He really, really takes care of his district.

          That said, I 100% agree with you that the one-party rule is a problem in MD. There’s the political ennui that results. There’s those godawful slates — in MD, three (usually) house reps are tied to a state senate district, not individual house districts. They run on a slate (after ponying up big $$) that includes the party-recommended candidates for every race, including local city council seats, county council, etc.

          You would not believe how many people vote off of a slate card. In 2006 I worked on a challenger’s campaign for an open seat. Mike Miller had already made his pick. Time and time again, I’d hear a sniveling “I’m just going to vote the slate.” Then there’s the apple ballot (particularly bad in MoCo).

          The redistricting is always shameful. I like how Iowa keeps counties whole. As you know, not the case in MD, not even for state senate seats.

          MD Dems are arrogant. I have a problem w/ the way incumbents at all levels just shmooze with a handful of important constituents once they attain office. I think there’s a reason why there aren’t that many Marylanders on political blogs — call your Congressperson! Mikulski and Cardin don’t even pretend to give a crap.

          If you’re in PG, you already know all about Jack Johnson.

          Here’s a good laugh for you and other Hoyer fans. Err, “political courage” and “Maryland Dem” do not go hand-in-hand …

      • yes, yes and yes

        Yes: “the Dem caucus has a decidedly “ancient Chinese secret” air about it, which is its biggest weakness.”

        Yes: “It’s hypocrisy for Iowa Democrats to argue for early voting, lack of photo id, to facilitate participation but then to turn around and claim that the caucus process is somehow representative of where Democrats are at.”

        and yes: “A 17% anti-Hoyer vote happened because a primary facilitated registering displeasure w/ the status quo and the secret ballot assured that the incumbent was unable to exact revenge. Here, you had county-level Democratic organizations openly challenging any would-be uncommitted caucusers.”