( – promoted by mooncat)
About 4pm on Thursday, the Edwards office in Davenport went from barely organized chaos to total chaos. We had a sudden influx of last-minute people asking for literature, and a horde of precinct captains coming in for their kits (signs, stickers, literature, etc. for the caucus).
I took this photo on Wednesday afternoon.
Then, just as suddenly, about 4:30, the place was empty and the staff started getting ready to head to their assigned locations.
We were assigned to Precinct 74 in Davenport, and had the address of one person needing a ride to the caucus location. After picking her up, we arrived at the Kirkwood center about 6:20. And it was PACKED already!
People stood in line 40 minutes just to sign in to get into the caucus room.
Once the caucus finally got started (about 7:15), the caucus chair did a preliminary count of the total number of voters in the room. Which meant all the volunteers had to leave the room. grr…. that meant me! (and several other people).
But they kept the door open so we would watch and hear much of what was happening.
The total count in our precinct: 232, which meant a candidate had to have 35 people in the first round to be “viable” and eligible for the second round.
There were people there for Edwards, Obama, Clinton, Richardson, Biden, and Kucinich (one guy for Dennis: he asked me if I knew who the Kucinich precinct captain was and I told him that I thought he was it). Only Edwards, Obama, and Clinton had enough people on the 1st round, so then they started swarming around the other candidates' voters.
Except for one Richardson supporter who went to Clinton, ALL the Biden, Richardson, and Kucinich people went for Edwards.
Then the horse trading began in earnest, with Obama & Clinton precinct captains running the numbers and offering a couple of people to Edwards to deny the other person a delegate. Edwards needed 8 more to get a second delegate and Obama needed 3 more people to deny Clinton a delegate. Clinton was right on the edge and couldn't give up any voters although her precinct captain was desperate to keep Obama from getting 4 instead of 3 at that precinct. She was working on the Edwards people to help her out.
If that sounds bizarre and convoluted, well it was. The guy on the right in the photo below is holding the caucus guidebook and there were several pages describing in minute detail how to count people, percentages, how do divide delegates, whether to round up or down, and what to do in case of a tie (flip a coin!). It was literally coming down to tenths of a percentage deciding the final delegate.
Obama and Clinton numbers were so close that a swing of just a few people could decide who got the final delegate (there were 7 delegates available to that precinct).
But none of the Edwards people would peel off to Clinton (who needed 5 more), even though they weren't “needed” to give Edwards a delegate.
So the total was: Obama 3, Clinton 3, and Edwards 1.
Some interesting observations:
1. Clinton didn't seem to be anyone's second choice (except for the Richardson guy). Otherwise, she could have pulled off a few Edwards folks and possibly gotten another delegate. While Edwards was the second choice for most voters, their third seemed to be Obama.
Other volunteers from other precincts reported similar results (in the Davenport area).
At least in Iowa, it appeared she had her base of supporters, but was unable to pick up additional support.
That could be a bad sign for future primaries, or it could just mean that Iowa has a bizarre process and the results don't transfer to any other situation.
We'll know soon.
2.Obama and Clinton staffers/volunteers didn't get along at all. Truly, they seemed to detest each other on a personal level. All the staff/volunteers at the caucus were from out of state (because in-state people were at their own caucuses of course), and I had fun chatting with them all.
People willing to travel and slog around in the bitter cold and get hung up on, etc. etc. have a lot in common – no matter which party they're from or what candidate they support.
But the interactions between the Obama & Clinton people really surprised me. They didn't talk much and when they did it was to argue about who could stand where or who was talking too loud, etc. At one point, one of the Clinton people (an ASFCME volunteer from Missouri) asked the Obama staffer (a woman from Chicago) what Obama's count was. The Obama staffer glared at the Missouri woman and said: “What do you care?” and walked off.
Even the supporters didn't mingle at all. They sat on opposite sides of the room – with Edwards in the middle. After watching some of the sharp words being exchanged, I wondered if we Edwards people would end up in the middle of a food fight (we were packed into a cafeteria).
My concern with this is that if one or the other gets the nomination, then the bad blood from the primary could spill over into the general. Boy, I hope not, but things were certainly tense on caucus night.
The stakes were high and the precinct captains were in there to win. If we can keep that level of determination and committment without turning on each other, then the Republicans don't have a chance in November.