Latest Iowa Caucus Polls In a short while, voters will be able to speak with their votes. After all this time, it’ll be good to get some concrete data on how the election will go. Iowa gets thing started on February 1. Here are five things to keep in mind as the curtains open on Election 2016. 1. Delegates will be awarded proportionally.
Both Democrats and Republicans allocate their Iowa delegates according to the percentage of votes won. While The RNC require all nominating contests held before March 15 to divide delegates proportionally, the Democratic practice is to award delegates proportionally for every primary and caucus. After the proportional period, Republican primaries and caucuses can award delegates in a “winner-take-all” system or a hybrid system. This aspect of the Republican nominating process leads CookPolitical.com’s David Wasserman to declare that “March 15th is likelier than March 1st [Super Tuesday] to determine the race’s destiny.”
The largest single-day delegate jackpot will be March 1st, when 655 delegates will be up for grabs in the seven “SEC” states as well as six others. But the second-largest jackpot will be March 15th, when 373 delegates will be at stake. And thanks to the winner-take-all nature of Florida and Ohio, this day will likely define the race’s end-game more than any other.
The fact that proportional allocation rarely leads to a commanding lead straightaway contributes to our second thing to know about Iowa.2. There is little to no correlation between who wins in Iowa and who wins the nomination.
Back in December, I took a look at the historical results of the Iowa caucuses for both parties searching for their predictive nature. The conclusion that came from the data indicated that winning the nomination does not require a victory in the Hawkeye Cauc-eye. At the same time, contrary to some people’s assertions, winning in Iowa doesn’t doom a campaign either. Since its creation in 1972, Iowa winners become their party’s nominee at a 50% clip, more or less.
The word “caucus” actually denotes a “meeting to further a specific cause.” What takes place every four years in Iowa is essentially a series of meetings where interested Republicans and Democrats get together to hash out who their precinct, county, district and, finally, state will support at their respective national conventions. But there are differences in the way each party conducts its Iowa “meetings.” The GOP’s process is more straightforward. All attendees at a Republican caucus gather in a big room and listen for awhile to representatives pitch their favorite candidates. At the end of the speeches, each caucus-goer writes down the name of their choice on a piece of paper and puts it in a jar. Then the paper votes are counted and the results are passed along to the state GOP party leaders. Democrats enjoy a more complicated process in which participants can vote multiple times and engage in face-to-face conversation and politicking before settling on the final precinct caucus result. Early in the evening, attendees sit in an area of the venue according to their favorite candidate. After taking a headcount, attendees are then allowed to mingle with each other touting the merits of their candidate and trying to convince others to come to their side. At the end of this process, another head count is taken, and the allocation of delegates at the precinct level is determined. 4. The game isn’t really over when the winners are announced.
Long after the precinct caucuses are over – and the winners have been announced – the delegate allocation continues. For Democrats, this involves a progression of conventions of greater scope. From precincts, elected delegates move on to county conventions. Here, these chosen ones are initially bound to their candidate, but, similar to the precinct level, these party activists can change allegiance. This process is repeated at the district level before delegates finally arrive at the state convention. Since little change occurs in the preference of the precinct delegates, the media’s caucus-night announcements are usually approximately accurate. But there was an exception to that rule. In 2012, Ron Paul’s supporters cleverly used the GOP policy of having non-binding delegates move on to the next levels of caucuses to effectively rig the results. (Non-binding means that a delegate is not bound to vote for the candidate for which he was chosen as delegate. In fact, delegates were not even required to state a candidate preference.) Paul’s supporters used this loophole to win 22 of 28 delegates for the Libertarian at the GOP’s national convention, despite the fact that he came in third on caucus night. Rules have changed since to require delegates to state and be bound to their candidate of choice.
5. The Iowa prize is small in the nomination marathon.
To win the Democratic nomination, a prospective candidate must earn 2,242 of 4,483 total delegates. For the GOP nominee, that number is 1,236 of 2,470. Those numbers put the relative importance of Iowa in perspective. The Democrats will battle for their share of just 54 delegates in Iowa in 2016, while the Republicans are facing off for a total purse of just 30 delegates. In the overall primary picture, Iowa doesn’t mean much, especially when you consider the proportional allotment system used by both parties here. However, even though only 1.2% of all delegates will be at stake on February 3rd, it would be fool-hearty to say Iowa doesn’t matter. As the first nomination contest, attention nationwide will be focused more intently on the Hawkeye State’s proceedings than on any other. After months and months of posturing, debating, polling and commentary, the Iowa Caucuses finally gives politically-minded folks, like me, some actual election meat to chew on. Moreover, Iowa’s first measure of actual support (not just polled support) serves to winnow the fields. Candidates who should have dropped out long before will finally get the message. The Santorums, Huckabees and O’Malleys out there will see their campaigns run out of resources and will choose to exit the race. I, for one, am excited to get this show on the road. In two weeks, we’ll finally get some concrete results. Will Cruz slow Trump’s charge? Can Bernie actually threaten Hillary? Iowa may not give us definitive conclusions, but it will provide some clues – clues some of us have been anticipating now for over a year.