You read it here first :)
Expanding on an earlier post...
I am glad Iowa is first in the election (or coronation) process.
I don't have much confidence in Iowa's voters necessarily.... American voters as a whole are a little lazy when it comes to politics, being aware of the actual issues, and when it comes to why they support certain candidates. I saw one e-mail that someone sent to CNN a few days ago which stated that they were supporting Hillary Clinton because they loved the Bill Clinton years. NOT because of her policy positions, actual experience, platform, campaigning, background, track record, honesty, etc. Go figure! I think I mentioned this idiocy before...about Americans having a habit of voting for symbols & last names instead of Candidates & policies. This is how we ended up with George W... people thought they were voting for George H.W. These are two different men, supported by different cadres of people, with different views of the world, and are men with VERY different experience levels. Talk about novice vs. Powerful Statesman/Master Politician.
In fact, I don't have much of a reason to feel confident about anything related to the corrupt and undemocratic American political system. Based on the facts about America's broken political system and all the nonsense that I have seen, I probably should not have any hope when it comes to John Edwards. But it is Iowa's system that gives me a little more confidence about Edwards's chances there. I don't like making predictions, but for months now I have been saying that Iowa was an opportunity for Edwards to make a good showing. Although, he believes that he is lagging and that he is not where he had planned to be in Iowa at this point. A guy named Obama ruined the show. But Edwards will probably be able to weather the challenge from Obama.
Why is Edwards still in the race? Because Polls mean little in the Iowa Caucus process. Throw the Polls out of the window.
I hate to use wikipedia for anything, but it provided the clearest, most succinct description of the Caucus process that I have found online. I was going to explain it myself, but I started to develop a headache about halfway through. So just how does the Iowa Caucus process work?
"The Iowa caucus operates very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states. The caucus is generally defined as a "gathering of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1784 precincts. Typically, these meetings occur in schools, churches, or public libraries. The caucuses are held every two years, but the ones that receive national attention are the presidential preference caucuses held every four years. In addition to the voting, caucus attendees propose planks for their party's platform, select members of the county committees, and discuss issues important to their local organizations.
Unlike the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary, the Iowa caucus does not result directly in national delegates for each candidate. Instead, caucus-goers elect delegates to county conventions, who elect delegates to district and state conventions where the national convention delegates are selected.
The Republicans and Democrats each hold their own set of caucuses subject to their own particular rules that change from time to time. Participants in each party's caucuses must be registered with that party. Participants can change their registration at the caucus location. Additionally, 17-year-olds can participate, as long as they will be 18 years old by the date of the general election. Observers are allowed to attend, as long as they do not become actively involved in the debate and voting process.
The process used by the Democrats is more complicated than the Republican Party caucus process. Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes.
Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a "preference group"). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. Each preference group might informally deputize a few members to recruit supporters from the other groups and, in particular, from among those undecided. Undecided participants might visit each preference group to ask its members about their candidate.
After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are "viable". Depending on the number of county delegates to be elected, the "viability threshold" can be anywhere from 15% to 25% of attendees. For a candidate to receive any delegates from a particular precinct, he or she must have the support of at least that many caucus participants in that precinct. Once viability is determined, participants have roughly another 30 minutes to "realign": the supporters of inviable candidates may find a viable candidate to support, join together with supporters of another inviable candidate to secure a delegate for one of the two, or choose to abstain. This "realignment" is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's "second candidate of choice" can help a candidate.
When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media. Most of the participants go home, leaving a few to finish the business of the caucus: each preference group elects its delegates, and then the groups reconvene to elect local party officers and discuss the platform.
The delegates chosen by the precinct then go to a later caucus, the county convention, to choose delegates to the district convention and state convention. Most of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are selected at the district convention, with the remaining ones selected at the state convention. Delegates to each level of convention are initially bound to support their chosen candidate but can later switch in a process very similar to what goes on at the precinct level; however, as major shifts in delegate support are rare, the media declares the candidate with the most delegates on the precinct caucus night the winner, and relatively little attention is paid to the later caucuses."
Here is a similar explanation from IowaCaucus.org
The Iowa Caucus is not a vote like you would see in a typical primary. The Caucus is a deliberative process that is very fluid. The January Caucus will probably be one of the most contentious Caucuses in years.
There are several things about the Caucus process that are in Edwards's favor:
#1. 17 year olds can participate (as long as they will be 18 by election time). Edwards has a strong following from young Iowans.... just like Obama. The media has counted on new, young Iowans to stay home. This is a mistake in my opinion. This Caucus will be different. A new generation is coming into its own. The war in Iraq, Climate change, and other issues have awaken young people. Young folks are now taking matters into their own hands. Edwards connected with young people early in his campaign. Edwards also has an impressive plan for dealing with Climate change. His advocacy for the poor and middle class is also appealing. Young people don't have the same connection to Clinton. She represents the "business as usual", "old guard" to many teens and 20 somethings. I believe young folks will shock the nation come Caucus night.
#2. In more ways than one, Iowans use "viability" as part of their process. From a technical point of view, each candidates group will have to garner at least 15% in the first round of the Caucus process in order to remain viable. This will almost surely make this a 3 way race early. Edwards has a chance to pick up support from the unviable groups... Richardson is close to the Clintons and may give his support to Hillary. But the others may go for Edwards. In addition to that support, he may also get support from undecideds.... which could be 10% or more of the total participants. When you add support from the undecided's and from the other candidates who didn't make the cut, Edwards could have enough to win.
Also, there is another viability test that is important to Iowans. That viability test has to do with who would be the strongest candidate in a general election. Hillary has too many negatives. And Obama....as great as he is, may be too vulnerable as a general election candidate. Although I would love to see him as a VP. The Republicans (and even some Democrats) are already starting to use dirty tricks against Obama. And the colorline is still very present in America....as much as some people would like to ignore it, or wish it away. Could Obama generate the kind of wide geographical support needed for a General election? Probably not. Iowans will figure this out very quickly and will go to an alternate choice. Many Obama supporters will likely switch to Edwards before the end of the night. They certainly won't support Hillary.
Edwards may not only win Iowa...but he may win in convincing fashion.
#3. From what I have read/heard, Edwards has a broader distribution of support throughout the State than the other candidates, especially from rural areas. Obama has support from more isolated pockets. Broad distribution of support is more important in the Caucus process than concentrated areas of support. Edward's campaigning in 2003 and 2004, as well as his early campaigning in 2007 may have paid off.
#4. Clinton is an establishment figure. I believe the people of Iowa are seeking a break from the establishment. They want a "change" candidate. Edwards and Obama are both stronger than Clinton when it comes to who represents change. Plus her support is moving down at the
wrong time right time :)..., and her campaign has turned ugly in recent weeks. She had a few incidents that hurt her in Iowa.... her scolding of an Iowa voter who asked her a question was a bad move. Iowans don't like being lectured to from outsiders. They also probably didn't care for the planted questions from her staff.
#5. Edwards is polling strong against potential Republican opponents.
#6. Edwards may do better with independents in a general election... a crucial point that Iowans will be looking at. Independents are important for a Democratic victory.
#7. Edwards may be able to carry more purple States....or at least as many as Clinton could carry. Being able to carry purple States, like my home State of Missouri, will be crucial for Democrats. They have to flip (and are poised to flip) at least 3-4 States that they didn't flip in 2004. Democrats cannot afford to have another close election like 2000, and 2004. Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, New Mexico (and a few others) could go to the Democrats. Edwards may be the best candidate to do it.
I'm just afraid that during the deliberations... the other establishment candidates will throw their support behind the chosen "establishment" front-runner, Hillary Clinton...in order to make sure power stays in the hands of the establishment camp. In other words, Richardson, Dodd, & Biden may encourage their supporters to go for Clinton. But if Edwards and Obama put their heads together.... they can team up to prevent this from happening or at least prevent Clinton from winning if this does happen. I hope Obama will be willing to swallow his pride and take one for the people.... and that goes for Edwards as well if Iowans choose Obama as the strongest candidate...although I don't really see that happening.
Here is a video from the Edwards camp that explains the process.
Additional Reading About the Caucus Process