Yepsen_2007_Iowa_Caucus - |...

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December 18, 2007 Caucus history: An early test of strength By DAVID YEPSEN REGISTER POLITICAL COLUMNIST Editor's note: David Yepsen covered the Iowa caucuses for some 25 years before becoming a full- time columnist at The Des Moines Register. Perhaps nobody knows more about the caucuses than Yepsen. Iowa's precinct caucuses became an early, if controversial, test of strength for major party presidential candidates during the 1970s and 1980s. Other states and critics seek to limit their significance, and Iowa works to resist those efforts. Early in each presidential election year, Iowa Democrats and Republicans gather in each of Iowa's approximately 2,500 precincts to conduct party business and express an early preference for a presidential candidate. Since it is the first test of strength for candidates in both parties, national party leaders and reporters pay close attention to the results. Iowans seem to enjoy the extensive courting, media attention and spending by candidates and reporters that come with the caucuses. Since they become nationally significant in 1972, the Iowa caucuses have provided important early boosts to George McGovern in 1972; Jimmy Carter in 1976; George Bush in 1980; and Gary Hart in 1984. Caucus losses have slowed many other candidates. Iowa political leaders often say Iowans have the job of reducing the field of presidential candidates for the rest of the nation. In the 1988 campaign cycle, perhaps the largest caucus event in history, 13 presidential candidates in competition on caucus night spent an estimated 846 days and deployed 596 staffers in the state during the two years that preceded the February 8, 1988, caucus-night balloting. In addition, about a half dozen potential candidates also spent time in the state, driving the total "days spent" figure to nearly 1,000 days. An estimated 3,000 reporters from around the country and the world were credentialed to cover the events. Critics of the caucuses said too much attention was paid to those results because Iowa was not a microcosm of the nation. Supporters, particularly Iowa politicians, argued that no state was reflective of the entire country and that Iowa was only the beginning of the process. Doing well in the caucuses required candidates to build extensive organizations to get out their supporters on caucus night. To do that, candidates devoted large amounts of campaign time to the state. The caucuses weren't always an early test of presidential candidate strength. They became important because, in 1968, the Democratic Party was torn apart by controversies over the Vietnam War. Iowa Gov. Harold Hughes was selected to chair a national Democratic Party commission to open up the party to more people and minority groups who felt left out of the party affairs. The Democrats adopted a series of rules requiring that plenty of notice be given about meetings and that party members be given plenty of time to discuss platform resolutions. To accomplish this and still hold their state convention in June, state Democratic leaders decided to
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2008 for the course POLIS 1101 taught by Professor Berggren during the Spring '08 term at UGA.

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Yepsen_2007_Iowa_Caucus - |...

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