Everything You Need To Know About Iowa's Hot Throbbing Caucus: A Wonksplainer

That thing will never fly. Center of gravity is all out of whack.

After all the campaigning and stump speeches and far fewer corndog-eating photos than we would have hoped for, the Big Day is finally here: Happy Birthday, Pauly Shore! Also, it's the Iowa Caucus, a mysterious ritual that nobody cared about until Jimmy Carter won the damned thing in 1976 and suddenly the New Hampshire primaries got really jealous. Herewith, a quick Iowasplainer in the popular Q & A format that is easy to organize and offers many comedic opportunities.

What Are The Iowa Caucuses?

The Iowa Caucus is an electoral event in which residents of the U.S. state of Iowa meet in precinct caucuses in all of Iowa's 1,681 precincts and elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. There are 99 counties in Iowa, and thus there are 99 conventions. These county conventions then select delegates for both Iowa's Congressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the presidential nominating conventions. About 1% of the nation's delegates are chosen by the Iowa State Convention. Or at least that's what Rand Paul told us.

Basically what happens is instead of a primary election where you go and vote sometime on election day, get your "I Think I Voted" sticker, and go home, Iowa makes people do their candidate-picking by showing up at a meeting that lasts between one and sixty hours, after which there is group sex. You have to be at the caucus to be counted, so no absentee ballots or early voting or sexting, although this year, both parties are letting out-of-state military people caucus online, because The Troops.

Why Caucuses Instead Of A Primary Election?

They just do, OK? Nobody knows why Iowa does this. If you type "Why does Iowa have a caucus instead of a primary?" into a search engine, you will get brief histories of the Iowa Caucus, explanations of how a caucus differs from a primary, explanations of why the caucuses matter, and arguments about whether Iowa should have as much influence as it does, but bupkis on why Iowa does it this way.

Actually, we are fibbing a little about that. Iowa has caucuses because New Hampshire has a state law decreeing that it must hold the first primary in U.S. America. So as presidential nominations increasingly moved toward being decided by voters instead of by "party bosses" in "smoke filled rooms" (there's one mandatory election cliché out of the way), Iowa lucked out by having a nominating contest that wasn't a primary. In short, having a caucus lets Iowa go first without New Hampshire having a hissy fit. If you want to go back into the prehistory of why Iowa originally chose caucuses instead of primaries, you're on your own.

How Well Do The Caucuses Predict Who'll Get The Nomination?

Since Jimmy Carter figured out he could make a national name for himself if he campaigned like crazy in Iowa in 1976, they have turned out to be pretty darned influential. Here is a chart from Vox that gives you some idea of how that has worked out:

Statistically, according to Rand Paul, since 1972, the Iowa caucuses have had a 43% success rate at predicting which Democratic candidate for president and a 50% success rate at predicting which Republican candidate for president will go on to win the nomination of their political party at that party's national convention.

The other thing the Iowa caucuses are good for is weeding out candidates who are unlikely to ever get substantial support. Or at least they used to, until Citizens United made it possible for improbable campaigns to run on life support as long as they have one really big donor, like Moon President Newt Gingrich.

How Do The Caucuses Work?

They keep changing the damned things, but here's how it works this year: At Republican caucuses, people will show up at their precinct meeting, which could be somebody's living room or a church or VFW hall but definitely not a union hall, and after some dumb party business that everyone will ignore except the reporter for the college paper, they hold a secret ballot and they're done. Here, let Donald Trump's bangable daughter Ivanka explain it for you:

Hahaha, there's far more information on "finding your caucus location" than on the actual process of voting, because Trump voters aren't really all that organized, now are they? You should really see the follow-up video, in which Ivanka explains how to find your own ass with both hands. No, not her ass. Daddy, stop that!

The Democrats' process is a bit more complex, so Vermont (?) Public Radio made a video using Lego people to explain it. They may not be as bangable as Ivanka, but we trust Lego people a lot more:

Yr Dok Zoom went to a caucus in Idaho (we have caucuses because half of America thinks we're Iowa anyway) in 2004, and it was pretty fun to sit with the five other Howard Dean supporters and scream a little. Then, since Dean didn't meet the "viability threshold," we sat with the John Edwards group, which also couldn't get a majority, and then almost everybody went for Kerry so we could feel good about consensus, and since we all lived in Idaho, we went home and got drunk because the state would inevitably go to Bush in November. Even the group sex was tinged with sadness.

Who's likely To Win This Year's Iowa Caucuses?

The Highly Respected Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Poll is respected very highly, and the smart kids at Vox say that it is "conducted by widely-respected pollster Ann Selzer and has been extremely accurate in recent years." So, respectfully, here's a summary, with numbers:

For the Republican race, the poll found Trump in first among likely caucusgoers with 28 percent, Ted Cruz in second with 23 percent, and Marco Rubio in third with 15 percent. Ben Carson is in fourth with 10 percent, and no other candidate gets more than 5 percent support.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is ahead with 45 percent among likely caucusgoers, followed by Bernie Sanders with 42 percent. Martin O'Malley is very far back, with just 3 percent.

But remember, this is Iowa, where the important factor is turnout, so if Ted Cruz out-organizes Donald Trump's campaign, which is run by morons except for the one lady who got fired for being a lady, the Trumpy people could find themselves losing to the one person most Republicans hate most. Or not.

Will Wonkette Be Liveblogging The Iowa Results?

No, because it would just be us sitting around watching TV and waiting for results, and how exciting would that be? Answer: Not very. But we will offer a whole bunch of updates and analysis Tuesday, especially if Ben Carson nods off face-down in the punchbowl at his own campaign party or Donald Trump shoots somebody. We will definitely put up an open thread tonight for all our lovely Wonkers to discuss the Iowa results, and you never know who might come by to say hello in that! (Your mom, once she's finished her group sex.)

[Vox / Bloomberg Politics / Guardian / Gizmodo]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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