# 2008 Iowa Caucuses

Obama's caucus victory 10 years later: A look back in photos

Many thanks to Jordan Oster, a public affairs consultant and clean energy advocate from Des Moines, for this review of a remarkable Iowa caucus campaign. -promoted by desmoinesdem

January 3 marked the tenth anniversary of Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 Iowa Democratic Precinct Caucuses.

Like a number of supporters and former staffers, I took to social media earlier this week to share photos and memories from his campaign. You can check out the full Twitter thread here.

As this anniversary approached, I began to gather photos and recollections of the Obama campaign. The Iowa caucuses have long captivated me, and I have tried to do my part to preserve and keep its unique history alive. A camera is usually a required accessory when I attend presidential events, and I have filled many memory cards with photos of presidential candidates since I first got involved with campaigns in 2003.

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No, the Iowa Democratic Party did not release raw vote totals for the 2008 caucuses

Fox News analyst Howard Kurtz accused Iowa Democratic Party leaders of hypocrisy and “stonewalling” today:

After the ridiculously close squeaker in the Iowa caucuses, the state’s Democratic Party said it couldn’t release the raw vote totals for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

That simply isn’t how they do business, party officials insisted. […]

But it turns out that hasn’t been the practice in past elections.

Kurtz then posted what he claimed are “raw vote totals” for Barack Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden from the 2008 Iowa caucuses. He took the numbers from CNN’s website.

Those numbers do not reflect the number of Iowans who caucused for each Democratic presidential candidate in 2008. They are just the state delegate equivalents calculated for each candidate, multiplied by 100.

Last week, the Associated Press used the same method when reporting state delegate equivalents for each candidate by county.

In the Democratic caucuses, AP will tabulate State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs), which are the estimated number of state convention delegates that the candidates would receive based on precinct caucus results. AP will input into its election night reporting system 1406 SDEs (1,401 statewide, plus 3 satellite SDEs, plus 2 tele-caucus SDEs, equaling 1,406 total SDEs). AP then will report the total SDEs for each candidate statewide. However, on the county level, the SDE numbers for some candidates are often very small fractions. In order to process these numbers by county without losing precision, the AP will inflate the county numbers by 100.

Various news organizations including the New York Times reposted the AP’s “state delegate equivalents times 100” figures for each Democratic candidate by county. Many people misunderstood what those numbers represented. I saw numerous social media posts linking to the AP numbers as proof of how many Iowans in each county had caucused for each candidate, even though adding those totals didn’t produce a number anywhere near the overall Democratic turnout, which exceeded 171,000.

David Redlawsk, author of a book about the Iowa caucuses, tweeted at Kurtz hours ago explaining the mistake. At this writing (1 pm central), Kurtz has not corrected his post on the Fox News website. A host of television shows critiquing political news coverage should value accuracy in his own work.

I have long called for reforms to make the reported Democratic caucus results more representative of Iowans’ preferences, and I support releasing whatever raw vote numbers the party has now (in many precincts, those numbers were not preserved). But as long as the Iowa Democratic Party insists on releasing only delegate totals for each candidate, news media like CNN and AP should not add to the confusion by reporting state delegate equivalents in a way that resembles raw vote numbers.

FEBRUARY 10 UPDATE: More than 24 hours after multiple people pointed out Kurtz’s error, the Fox News post still has not been corrected, nor has Kurtz acknowledged the mistake on his Twitter feed. His lack of professionalism is disappointing.

FEBRUARY 12 UPDATE: Three days later, Kurtz’s uncorrected piece remains up on the Fox News website. I continue to see it shared on social media and linked by other authors, who accept the false premise that those numbers reflect the “popular vote” from the 2008 caucuses.

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How the Iowa caucuses work, part 5: A "pollster's nightmare"

Continuing a six-part series. Part 1 covered basic elements of the caucus system, part 2 explained why so many Iowans can’t or won’t attend their precinct caucus, part 3 discussed how Democratic caucus math can affect delegate counts, and part 4 described how precinct captains help campaigns.

Measuring the horse race ahead of the Iowa caucuses poses special challenges, particularly on the Democratic side. Those problems affect even the Des Moines Register’s longtime pollster Ann Selzer, whom FiveThirtyEight.com has given an A+ grade and called “the best pollster in politics.”

Follow me after the jump to see why polling expert Mark Blumenthal has described the caucuses as a “pollster’s nightmare.”

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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.

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Remembering the 2008 Iowa caucuses

Eight years ago today, record numbers of Iowans showed up for their precinct caucuses. Republican gatherings drew about 120,000 people, way up from the 87,666 who had caucused in 2000, the last contested year for the GOP. Who knows how many Democratic precinct caucuses became fire hazards as close to 240,000 people came out, way beyond the record of around 125,000 set in 2004 and far surpassing any projections I had heard from campaign hacks or political analysts. Nearly 300 caucus-goers plus dozens of observers crowded into the old gymnasium of my neighborhood’s elementary school. John Deeth posted some quick hits on the phenomenal Democratic turnout in some Johnson County precincts.

It was bitterly cold that night, as it had been during the whole stretch of frantic post-Christmas GOTV by volunteers and record numbers of field staff around the state. Everyone in my family got sick later that week, which must have been a common occurrence after so many Iowans spent the evening of January 3 in close quarters.

I wrote up how things played out in my Windsor Heights precinct here. One vivid memory didn’t make it into the post. Joe Biden’s precinct captain cracked up the room when it was his turn to announce the number in his corner after the first division into preference groups: “24 very experienced caucus-goers.” He was alluding to the fact that even for our neighborhood, populated heavily by empty nesters, the average age of Biden supporters was noticeably high.

Please share your memories from that historic night in this thread.

Candidate Spending Reports Clash With Perception

Dave Swenson
It’s obvious to everyone, and no one can argue with what’s literally right in front of our eyes and unarguably true: when it comes to presidential campaign spending, the vast majority of candidate effort is concentrated in Iowa, the first caucus state, and in New Hampshire, the first primary state. It stands to reason, then, that Iowa spending amounts must be huge, especially in a year when both parties have an active slate of candidates. Yet when we analyze campaign spending, that is, when we follow the money, precious little finds its way to Iowa. As I’d pondered before in my own research, what gives?

Here’s the money quote from a recent investigation by Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register where she looked at campaign spending in Iowa through the third quarter of 2015:

Despite Iowa’s outsize influence in the nation’s presidential nominating process, political spending is still funneled primarily to coastal states, which house major political consulting and advertising firms. Iowa accounts for just 3 percent of the $153.3 million that presidential campaigns have spent so far this cycle, filings with the Federal Election Commission show.

I took a good look at this during the last wide open Iowa Caucus.

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Three thoughts on the first episode of the Des Moines Register's "Three Tickets" podcast (updated)

The Des Moines Register launched Jason Noble’s ten-part podcast about the Iowa caucuses last week. You can listen to the “Three Tickets” at the Register’s website or download the episodes through iTunes or Stitcher. After telling his own Iowa caucus “origin story” (hearing Howard Dean sing part of an Outkast song on a campaign bus in 2003), Noble devoted most of the first episode (“Peak Caucus”) to the 2008 Democratic contest. Roughly 240,000 Iowans showed up for Democratic precinct caucuses on January 3, mostly to support Barack Obama, John Edwards, or Hillary Clinton. Their numbers more than doubled the roughly 119,000 Iowans who caucused for Republican candidates the same night and nearly doubled the previous record-high Democratic Iowa caucus turnout, set in 2004.

Bleeding Heartland covered the 2008 caucuses extensively. Even so, “Peak Caucus” recalled some moments I had mostly forgotten and got me thinking about other aspects of the campaign I remembered well. So Noble succeeded in motivating this political junkie to listen to the rest of the “Three Tickets” series.

A few reactions to the first episode are after the jump.

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Excessive demands for personal attention hurt the Iowa caucuses

Hillary Clinton embarked on a road trip to Iowa immediately after making her campaign official on Sunday. She has several small-scale events scheduled for today and tomorrow in Monticello (Jones County) and Norwalk (Warren County), a sign she is committed to winning over Iowa caucus-goers.

Most politically engaged Iowans look forward to seeing presidential candidates in person during caucus season. We like to hear first-hand where the contenders stand on issues that matter to us. As a group, we are generally willing to give all contenders serious consideration before making up our minds.

Unfortunately, some Democratic activists seem to think that candidates prove their worth in Iowa by fawning over local VIPs. That mentality hurts the Iowa caucuses, especially when pooh-bahs broadcast their sense of entitlement to national reporters covering the campaign.

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Register fails to call bullshit on Tancredo

I read the Des Moines Register's write-up on Tom Tancredo's visit to NW Iowa in the Sunday edition, and I think it's time for reporters covering Tancredo to go beyond reporting his outrageous claims and ask him to provide some evidence to back them up.

We've known for a long time that Tancredo is a one-trick pony, playing on the right wing's resentment against Spanish-speaking immigrants, fanned by the conservative hate radio machine. 

But I hadn't realized before reading this article that Tancredo actually blames immigrants for every problem plaguing America. Tancredo seems to think the main problem in our education system is the hordes of illegal immigrants whose children flood our schools. Nowhere in the article do I see a hint that a reporter asked him about what percentage of our school districts serve a significant population of illegal immigrants. 

Here's Tancredo talking about health care, channeling Moe Siszlyak of The Simpsons (“I knew it was the immigints! Even when it was the bears, I knew it was the immigints!”):


Tancredo touted his support for “market-place competition” in health care and personal health savings accounts, but added that “were we to deal with the illegal immigration problem, we could significantly reduce our costs for health care.”


Really? Illegal immigrants are a significant reason that the US is spending 14 percent of our GDP on health care? Again, I see no sign that a reporter has asked Tancredo or a Tancredo staffer to provide evidence backing up this claim.

Tancredo linked immigration to our environmental problems, since immigration is largely responsible for our population growth:


“If we continue on this path, there will be a billion people here by the end of the century,” Tancredo added. “And if there are, what do you think that does to our environment? Americans consume more and produce more waste than anybody else. If you're worried about the environment, why aren't you worried about the fact we are bringing in millions and millions of people?


Kind of interesting to see this conservative, anti-choice Republican so concerned about population growth and U.S. consumption. Did the Register's correspondent ask Tancredo whether he has ever sponsored legislation aimed at reducing the amount of waste produced by American consumers?

Also, his population numbers seem way off. What credible source has predicted that the U.S. population will hit 1 billion by the end of this century?

The last straw for me was this passage:


Tancredo touched briefly on what he said was the increased number of vaccine-resistant diseases being introduced into the United States from other countries, then forged ahead to what he said is illegal immigration's impact on national security.


This is loathsome propaganda designed to dehumanize immigrants among the Republican electorate. Maybe the reporter or the DM Register's editors think that “what he said was” is sufficient to suggest to the reader that Tancredo's claim might not be true. But this was crying out for a follow-up by the correspondent–what vaccine-resistant diseases is Tancredo talking about? Are there any?

Did the Register contact the Centers for Disease Control to verify this claim?

Come on, campaign trail reporters, be more than stenographers.

UPDATE: Don at Cyclone Conservatives attended Tancredo's Sioux City immigration forum on Saturday and loved what he heard from Tancredo and his Iowa campaign director, Bill Salier

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