Throwback Thursday: 2008 Iowa Caucus Day, Richardson Campaign

I had forgotten that Robert Becker, the Iowa director for Bernie Sanders this cycle, ran Richardson's campaign. About 10 percent of caucus-goers in my precinct stood in Richardson's corner. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Immediately prior to the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, I traveled to Iowa as a volunteer for the Bill Richardson for President Campaign. On the morning of January 3, 2008, the day of the caucuses, Robert Becker, the Iowa State Director for the Richardson campaign addressed the volunteers at Richardson's Des Moines headquarters. Here is the link on YouTube to the video I filmed.

The Richardson campaign at that time was discounting polling predicting a tidal wave of first time and young voters coming to the caucuses to vote for Obama. That night Richardson received the support of an estimated 20,000 Iowa voters.

In 2004, this number of voters would have given Richardson 16% of the total vote and he would have finished in a strong fourth place. However, in 2008, 20,000 voters amounted to only about 8% of the total voters.

"Riding a message of hope and change and buoyed by extraordinary turnout," in the words of the Washington Post, Barack Obama decisively won the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Due to the 15% viability rule used by the Democrats, almost all of the first round votes for Richardson "disappeared." His official vote total dropped to 2%, and he finished in a distant fourth place.

The Iowa results effectively ended all but the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and provided the catalyst for Obama's eventual victory over Clinton.

My thoughts on the relevance of 2008 to the present:

1. Iowa is critically important to whom wins the Democratic nomination. Just as was the case in 2008, if Clinton wins Iowa this year, the race for the Democratic nomination is effectively over. It won't matter what Sanders does in New Hampshire. Clinton will have taken the oxygen out of Sanders campaign and set herself up well for victories after New Hampshire.

2. But I don't think that is going to occur. My guess is Sanders is going to swamp Clinton with first time and new voters as Obama did in 2008. Again, that is a guess. I'm not in Iowa now and not volunteering for anyone's campaign.

3. The video highlights the "fog of war" in campaigns and unpredictability of the Iowa caucuses. Even within hours of the voting in 2008 it was not clear to experienced professionals what was about to unfold. A tidal wave of Obama Iowa supporters effectively ended the campaigns of every other candidate except Clinton. At the Des Moines caucus I attended the Obama supporters kept arriving and arriving. The school gym was packed and beyond capacity. The excess Obama supporters were sent to the school cafeteria. And then the cafeteria was filled to capacity.

The momentum and enthusiasm of the Obama supporters was amazing and inspiring even as my candidate was going down to defeat. My take away as I left Des Moines the next day was Richardson lost the nomination but with Obama we (the Democrats) were going retake the White House.

  • thanks for posting this

    as well as the video. The pep talk is enlightening. While I wouldn't say Richardson's supporters held "all the cards" like Robert Becker did, there were quite a few precincts where one of the larger groups helped Richardson become viable in order to keep a second delegate from going to a rival. It happened in Clive 1, right next door to my Windsor Heights precinct.

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