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.

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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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