On January 3, the first caucus in the nation for the 2008 Presidential election was held in Iowa. According to previous national polls, Senator Hilary Clinton was expected to win the Democratic vote in the Iowa Caucus, and Mitt Romney the Republican vote. However, these expectations were proven wrong as Senator Barack Obama (with more than 37% of the Democratic vote) and Mike Huckabee (with more than 34% of the Republican vote) won.
This sudden change in tide surprised and shocked Americans. However, it has left many wondering, especially new voters, what is a caucus and what does it mean for the elections on the national level?
Before the nationwide election is held to elect a new president to office, national nominating conventions are held to pick a single presidential and vice presidential candidate with a common running platform for each party. Delegates from each state are elected through either state primaries or a caucus system. In a primary (the method by which New York elects its delegates), citizens vote directly for the candidate of their choice. These votes then influence the way that the state delegates vote at the party’s national convention.
Unlike this process, Iowa follows the more historical voting practice known as the caucus system. In this system, people meet in small groups at local homes, schools, and other public buildings. There, they decide upon whom to send as delegates to the county convention. These county delegates then decide who to send as delegates to the congressional district state convention. Lastly, following suit, the state delegates choose the delegates who will be sent to national nominating convention. Although it may not seem like it, these people are indirectly voting for the candidates of their choice by electing delegates that will vote like them; they will vote for the same candidates and for the same reasons, only in place of the general population.
The results of the Iowa caucus can be considered both an important and unimportant part of the process towards the national nominating convention. The Iowa caucus is always the first of all the caucuses and primaries to be held in the nation. Thus, it gives each candidate an indication of how well they may do in the rest of the nation. However, it is important to remember that Iowa is just one of the fifty states. The results of the Iowa caucus may or may not reflect the way people vote in the other states due to political and lifestyle disparities in various regions of the country.
The turnout for this year’s Iowa caucus was a staggering increase (almost double) from that of last year’s Caucus. Many people attribute the increase in turnout to an increase in involvement by young voters. In 2008, a great many of the 1990 baby boomers will turn 18 years old, allowing them to vote. Because of this, the media feels that young voters are "inspired" to vote because they know they can make a difference in the election process.
In any case, the shocking results of the Iowa caucus, which revealed the leading candidates so far to be Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, are the first in a long process leading up to the national nominating convention and ultimately the final election in November.