Living Through Caucuses in Iowa – Part I

The Iowa caucus experience is different than anything in the country. I just learned that Wyoming just had their caucus but it isn’t anything that anyone noticed. (Will Anyone Notice Wyoming’s Caucuses) Besides, it is only for Republicans. Romney won 8 of the 12 delegates. Interestingly enough, the Democrats won’t have their caucuses until March 8.

In search of victory in these early January caucuses, candidates have been visiting us since March of 2007. I haven’t spent too much time visiting with all of the candidates (I have met and spoken with Richardson twice and Obama once.) The picture up there includes Me (Dr. Z), Gov. Richardson, and our son, Jeff. Some of my friends have been making a point of seeing as many candidates as possible (Clinton, Biden).

We LOVE all the attention that Iowans receive from the candidates and the nation . . . at least we enjoy it for the first 8 months. The last few months are utter chaos. The cities are invaded by politicians and their entourages and their campaign workers. There is another reason “Why Iowa Wants to Be First.” The New York Times says that they spent over $13 million dollars in the state while trying to win us over.

The campaign workers are an important part of the campaigns. Our son, Jeffrey Zeitz, worked as a fields operative in Des Moines since June. He was in charge of organizing the campaign in Dallas County (yes, we DO have a Dallas in Iowa.) I was able to meet the Gov at a salsa-tasting party outside of Des Moines. Here you can see that he knows something about grilling chilies. Of course he does, he’s from New Mexico.

As we looked closer at Gov. Richardson and what he could bring to the presidency, both my wife, Kathy, and I became Richardson supporters. We contributed to his campaign and housed 3 “road runners” from New Mexico during the final week of the campaign. Road runners are volunteers who came to Iowa to provide the added people power for the final onslaught of the campaign assault. They were wonderful people. One of our visitors, Terry, blogged on his experiences from Dec. 25 – Jan. 5 in his blog, Ennui – Personal & Political. His writings provide a deep understanding of the inner workings of caucuses.

I also volunteered as a precinct captain. In this role, I will organize and lead the Richardson contingent for our precinct at the caucus. The caucus rules require each candidate to have at least 15% of the total number of voters attending to be viable. (I will explain this in more depth in Part II of this series. 😉 Based upon previous turnout, we were expecting to have about 210 attendees which would mean that we would need 31 voters. We only had 18 registered voters in our precinct who had identified themselves as Richardson supporters so we had some work to do to build support.

I decided to become one of those annoying phone callers who call you to ask you to support our candidates. The Richardson campaign had a web-based system that allowed me to phone from home. It provided me with names phone numbers and caucusing locations. I used Skype Out to make the phone calls. This service enables me to call any landline phone in the US or Canada from my computer for only $3/month. Therefore, I was able to call potential supporters all over Iowa. It was pretty cool to sit at my computer wearing my headphones and mic. I really got into the groove and made about 130 calls. Talked with a number of interesting people. Iowans are amazingly cordial. I only had about 3 or 4 people hang up on me.

I also helped Don and Terry (our New Mexican Road Runners) in distributing door hangers around Cedar Falls. These were cards telling them about the location of their caucusing location. Interestingly, we didn’t place them on all of the houses. In the interest of conservation, we hung them on the doors of specific houses. These were the houses of supporters and those who indicated that they were “leaning towards Richardson” or indicated that the Governor was their second choice. It wasn’t difficult work, but it was about 2 degrees (-15 degrees when considering the wind chill.) It was REALLY cold and our New Mexican guests had quite an experience.

Well, this all led up to the actual caucus night on Wednesday, January 3. I will discuss this further in the next episode.

What’s YOUR opinion?
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