Monday, February 01, 2016

Making The Caucuses Happen, Part 3: Last Minute Edition

Sorry readers. January was busy. Last went to a candidate event December 16.

Will try to share a few thoughts from the Johnson County HHS building and from the Unity Party. But I'm so deep in the bubble that I have little sense of the big picture.

I'm still working on Making The Caucuses Happen the reality, not the post. And about all I have time for is a summary of the last 48:
  • Made lists of last minute registrations, 57 versions, sent to each chair. Along with, where applicable, contact info for Republicans who are sharing the site
  • Link to a site to print off last minute extra forms
  • Re-distributing various other forms
  • Handing off the LAST packet Saturday afternoon
  • Meeting with one of the campaigns for my precinct
  • Actually setting the other 56 precincts aside and spending a couple hours on poor little Iowa City 11, my own precinct
  • Calls and multiple media emails dealing with a last minute decision by a major cable network to go LIVE from one of our sites
  • Multiple stops on Facebook and Reddit to offer info and correct mis-info
  • A math explainer on the definition of 50% for the one delegate precincts ("Anything over 50% is a simple majority," meaning does not have to be 50% plus one)
  • Recalculating a spreadsheet to supplement the app, so it deals with the issue of people leaving before viability is final
  • Trying to plan ahead for our Unity Party where chairs turn in packets and our Unstuffing Party where we sort paperwork
  • FINALLY getting the 2008 attendance by county data and taking an hour to actually write about rural counties having less attendees per state delegate equivalent
  • Remembering that I forgot to renew my tags, which will mean a last minute trip to the treasurer
  • What am I forgetting?
Thanks in advance to the whole Johnson County Crew, to the Johnson County Republicans who worked with us so well, and to the volunteers and staffers of both parties and all campaigns.

The Democrats have three great candidates and we can be proud to support any one of them in November. Remember that tonight.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

In 2008, Rural Counties Had Less Caucus Goers Per Delegate

This is a rewrite of a post from 2007. 2008 turnout by county data was next to impossible to find, but Bleeding Heartland finally tracked it down. She did the legwork, I just did the math.

Since the Iowa Democratic caucuses are a representative democracy, not a straight one person one vote, not every caucus goer carries equal weight.  Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and especially Martin O'Malley have spent a lot of time in small courthouse towns, because the way the results are counted, the small counties weigh in disproportionately.

An analysis of 2008 caucus attendance shows that, on average statewide, it took just under 96 people to elect a state delegate equivalent, up from 41 caucus goers per to elect a state delegate equivalent in 2004. But this year, unlike 2004, no place is more than double or less than half the state average.

Some counties are full of go-to-meeting activists while others have more rank and file voters.

The easiest place to elect a delegate was Osceola County, where it took 59.67 attendees per state delegate equivalent. The bottom ten is filled with small, rural, GOP leaning counties, with the curious exception of Clinton.

And once again, the hardest places to elect state delegates were campus counties. In Winneshiek, home to Decorah's Luther College, it took 138 people to elect a state delegate equivalent, 2.3 times as many as in Osceola. Johnson County, the hardest place to elect a delegate in 2004, is narrowly behind Winneshiek at 134 bodies per state delegate equivalent.

Put another way: A "vote" in Osceola County is worth more than twice as much as getting out a Luther undergrad.

But it's worth noting that with the turnout surge almost everywhere in 2008, the range between counties is narrower than it was in 2004. In that year  it took 79.2 people to elect a Johnson County delegate, nearly twice the state average and almost four times the level of Fremont County, where 22.3 caucus goers translated into a state delegate.

The top ten of hardest places to elect delegates were college counties including Story and Jefferson (Fairfield) and high growth suburban areas like Dallas and Warren counties. And, oddly, a couple of the most Republican places in the state, Page and Sioux counties. I didn't even think there WERE 743 Democrats in Sioux County.

High growth makes it harder to elect a delegate from your county. A voter who moved to Dallas County three years ago won't count in the county's presidential vote totals used to calculate delegates, because they voted somewhere else.  A voter who moved in after the gubernatorial election wouldn't count at all toward the delegate count.

The flip side is, people in shrinking rural counties who moved away or passed away still contribute to the county's delegate allocation, meaning it takes fewer LIVE bodies to win delegates..


The caucuses take place in a mythical, projected version of a general election voting population, because caucus apportionment is based on votes for the top of the ticket.  In 2008 the counts were based on votes for John Kerry in 2004 and Chet Culver in 2006; likewise this year's counts are based on Obama `12 and Jack Hatch. 

This means candidates can't run up the score with big wins in big counties, and it mutes the impact of isolated turnout waves.  Whether 30 students or 300 show up in Iowa City Precinct 5 (all dorms and frat houses), the same six delegates are at stake. 

Ultimately, the apportionment rules mean candidates have to carefully allocate their resources and fight on all fronts at once, and part of that allocation is making the effort where the most bang for the buck is available -- the small towns.


Rank County Attendance State Delegate Equivalent (2008) Attendees Per Delegate (2008)
1 Winneshiek 2347 17 138.06
2 Johnson 18362 137 134.03
3 Dallas 5000 39 128.21
4 Polk 44098 358 123.18
5 Story 9227 77 119.83
6 Jefferson 1722 15 114.80
7 Warren 4230 38 111.32
8 Audubon 542 5 108.40
9 Page 745 7 106.43
10 Sioux 732 7 104.57
11 Marion 2405 23 104.57
12 Decatur 627 6 104.50
13 Poweshiek 1735 17 102.06
14 Madison 1205 12 100.42
15 Boone 2390 24 99.58
16 Mills 694 7 99.14
17 Greene 786 8 98.25
18 Kossuth 1354 14 96.71
19 Carroll 1536 16 96.00
20 Muscatine 3069 32 95.91
21 Jasper 3282 35 93.77
22 Harrison 937 10 93.70
23 Cass 843 9 93.67
24 Des Moines 3761 41 91.73
25 Iowa 1184 13 91.08
26 Webster 2912 32 91.00
27 Henry 1273 14 90.93
28 Clayton 1453 16 90.81
29 Cedar 1451 16 90.69
30 Wapello 2784 31 89.81
31 Linn 18139 202 89.80
32 Scott 12552 142 88.39
33 Hamilton 1228 14 87.71
34 Washington 1393 16 87.06
35 Jackson 1738 20 86.90
36 Fayette 1557 18 86.50
37 Palo Alto 690 8 86.25
38 Marshall 2757 32 86.16
39 Guthrie 774 9 86.00
40 Pottawattamie 4723 55 85.87
41 Woodbury 5836 68 85.82
42 Montgomery 514 6 85.67
43 Adams 256 3 85.33
43 Bremer 1792 21 85.33
45 Grundy 679 8 84.88
46 Dubuque 7627 90 84.74
47 Adair 506 6 84.33
48 Sac 589 7 84.14
49 Fremont 419 5 83.80
50 Lee 2846 34 83.71
51 Mahaska 1070 13 82.31
52 Davis 492 6 82.00
53 Monona 655 8 81.88
54 Wayne 409 5 81.80
55 Plymouth 1063 13 81.77
56 Hardin 1144 14 81.71
57 Tama 1306 16 81.63
58 Floyd 1224 15 81.60
59 Buchanan 1626 20 81.30
60 Lyon 324 4 81.00
61 Jones 1451 18 80.61
62 Clay 963 12 80.25
63 Black Hawk 9382 117 80.19
64 Lucas 559 7 79.86
65 Buena Vista 954 12 79.50
65 Wright 795 10 79.50
67 Crawford 791 10 79.10
68 Appanoose 867 11 78.82
69 Union 706 9 78.44
70 Humboldt 548 7 78.29
71 Ida 391 5 78.20
72 Monroe 469 6 78.17
73 O'Brien 546 7 78.00
74 Allamakee 934 12 77.83
75 Dickinson 1082 14 77.29
76 Keokuk 614 8 76.75
77 Chickasaw 996 13 76.62
78 Pocahontas 455 6 75.83
79 Louisa 605 8 75.63
80 Van Buren 377 5 75.40
81 Delaware 1126 15 75.07
82 Benton 1723 23 74.91
83 Franklin 598 8 74.75
84 Cerro Gordo 3416 46 74.26
85 Worth 588 8 73.50
86 Ringgold 367 5 73.40
87 Winnebago 656 9 72.89
88 Calhoun 583 8 72.88
89 Shelby 575 8 71.88
90 Clarke 568 8 71.00
91 Howard 631 9 70.11
92 Clinton 3203 46 69.63
93 Cherokee 693 10 69.30
94 Hancock 618 9 68.67
95 Emmet 539 8 67.38
96 Mitchell 663 10 66.30
97 Butler 729 11 66.27
98 Taylor 318 5 63.60
99 Osceola 179 3 59.67
Total 239872 2500  - average 95.95

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Poll Close, But Edge to Hillary

Factoid are flying faster than I can track at the moment, but my seat of the pants take on the below the topline stats in the Iowa Poll indicate that Hillary Clinton has the intangibles edge on Bernie Sanders for Monday.

The top line is close - Hillary 45, Bernie 42, with a 4 point margin. Remember that margins are bell curves - a two or four point Hillary lead is more likely than a 7 point Hillary lead or a one point Bernie lead.

Unanswered question: Is the poll weighted to account for delegate math? Or is it a percentage of voters? Because a percentage of voters is not the same as a percentage of state delegate equivalents, which is what Iowa Democrats report as the result.

Key points:

"Clinton leads Sanders among Democrats who say they will definitely hit caucus sites, while Sanders leads among Democrats who say they will probably caucus." Organization is what turns those Probablys into Definitelys - and Clinton has the organizational edge.


County caucus coordinator perspective: That benefits not running out of room and registration forms. (At this point, I care a LOT more about that than about who wins.)

With Sanders leading among new caucus goers, he needs to surf a turnout wave to  win. I'll know a lot about the state of the statewide race when I'm at my sign in table, as I live in a mostly student precinct in Iowa City, and if the wave hits, it hits me.



Either way the caucus winner will be clear at the sign in table before the caucus even convenes. But an important reminder: Doesn't matter if I have 50 people or 500 people show up, my precinct has a fixed six delegates. And if the Bernie turnout wave is concentrated in a few places, he gains relatively little.

And a couple subtle things tell me Team Bernie does not expect to pull this one out.

Two days before the 2008 caucus, Hillary Clinton was in Iowa City. The press flacks were spinning the concept than any result within a two point range was "a three way tie." And Clinton herself wrapped up her speech talking about people who couldn't caucus, troops and second shift workers.

So there's precedent: the candidate trailing in Iowa blames the process.

So is this about voter rights, certainly a worthy issue? Or is this a shot at the Iowa process?

One item is an item; two is a pattern. Note this deleted tweet from a Sanders staffer:



The article in question is the usual Iowa So White/Process Unfair mishmash that we hear this time of year, and concludes: "The Iowa caucus is an archaic political vestige that has no place in influencing our presidential politics as it does."

And there's App-O-Phobia, the worry in Bernieworld that because Microsoft developed the results reporting app, somehow the fix is in for Hilalry.

Look, as a desktop Linux user for eight years, and as the guy who inflicted the Linux Monday series on you my unfortunate readers, I hate Microsoft as much as anyone. But remember, this is a bipartisan thing, and there's no rational reason that either Microsoft or BOTH Iowa parties would risk their reputations, and risk First, on dodgy software.

So the groundwork  is being laid for a Blame The Process reaction to a narrow Iowa loss, and Sanders is still a favorite in New Hampshire, next door to his home state.

As for poor Martin O'Malley, his supporters best strategy would be going in with their second choice in mind, or figuring out their price at realignment time. My bet is a lot of county convention delegates - the usual offer in negotiations - will be O'Malley people under other labels.

Their odds may be better in the Hillary camp, full of experienced folks. They know how to make the offer, and they know how to put their own hands down, give up their own seat,  and become an alternate - because they know that alternates pretty much always get seated. The Bernie rookies, in contrast, understand less that caucus night is about the NUMBER, not about who the delegates are. They will be fighting hard to be delegates themselves and may be less willing to give a slot up.

Those county conventions aren't till March 12... by which time it's hard to imagine O'Malley still in the race.

On the Republican side;

I wonder how much the poll will have a Heisenberg Effect on the supporters of the people at 3% or less, and on Carson people. In a way, this poll is like a Republican first alignment, and only Trump, Rubio and Cruz are viable.

Predictions: Fiorina, Huckabee, and Santorum drop out Monday night. Kasich is out after New Hampshire. Carson stumbles along , a victim of his own direct mail consultants. And Rand Paul's support is indigestible, but may shrink as people cross over for Sanders.

At that point, the serious arm twisting of Jeb! and Christie begins, as the establishment win desperately tries to unite behind Rubio.



But at this point, things look really good for a narrow plurality win for The Donald.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Making The Caucuses Happen, Part 2

I really meant for Part Two to get posted sooner.

Here's some of what's happened since Part One.

Countless candidate and surrogate events that I've completely ignored, though today I accidentally ran into Bowzer from Sha Na Na phone banking at Iowa City Hillary HQ, while I was showing around a professor from Japan.

I'm now averaging about 20 emails or other types of electronic messages an hour during normal waking hours. Remembering who contacted me through what medium and what they wanted is a challenge.

Feedback is primarily negative, but the people doing this stuff know, or SHOULD know, that going in.



Rumor 1: John Deeth is secretly for Bernie and deliberately scheduled the east side of Iowa City caucuses in bad locations to suppress the vote.

Rumor 2: John Deeth is secretly for Hillary and deliberately scheduled the west side of Iowa City caucuses in bad locations to suppress the vote.

The intricacies of a 114 location caucus plan, 57 precincts times two parties, are lost on a person who's mad they can't go to the school across the street. I'm at the point where I'm extremely grateful when I get a thank you for an answer that disappoints someone.

The day job has been good enough to let me work half time this week, though even it work it's caucus, caucus, caucus: "No, the parties already printed the list, you need to re-register there... Republican or Democrat? No, they're at different locations... No, there aren't any absentees, you have to go..."

Media interviews, local and national, are so frequent that I forget about them till my name pops up on my Google News alert and I remember, Oh, yeah, I did that.


At 2:43, right after Steve King and The Donald.

The last two Saturdays have been training and handing out packets. Along with more TV.


This was January 16, just a few hours before a took a brief, but ultimately heartbreaking, football break. With my Packers out, I'm rooting for Peyton Manning to go out on top. Ep-ic come-back starts right here.

We've tested that reporting app twice - the first worked out the kinks, the second fairly smooth

I've had three last minute chair replacements - two moves and one death in the family. While I was asleep I had a chair drop out and a replacement step up before I even knew about it.


The Johnson County Republicans and Democrats split the bill and did a joint publication of our locations, and we had a sit down together to write a joint press release. After that was published and sent, we had to send it again because of a last minute site change in Shueyville. My diligent chairs found a misunderstanding about time and space (Steven Hawking is working on that) and got us moved across the street.

We also have one caucus site with two addresses: There's been some confusion about Bella Sala in Tiffin. The place was recently annexed into the city limits and that has changed the street address. Google Maps has not caught up. The OFFICIAL address is 205 S Park Rd Tiffin. The prior address was 3232 Jasper Ave NW, Iowa City. It's the same place but it IS in Tiffin. Dems and Republicans are caucusing side by side there, with of course Dems on the left and Republicans on the right.

I know I'm forgetting something but that's my mantra these days,  I know I'm forgetting something. Someone always reminds me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Register Endorsement is About Sanders, Not Clinton

The important part of the Des Moines Register's Hillary Clinton endorsement was not the predictable recitation of her experience. We saw that before, eight years ago, when she also won the endorsement, and that and five bucks will buy you a latte in Iowa City and a third place finish.

No, the important part was the analysis and critique of Bernie Sanders.
Sanders admits that virtually all of his plans for reform have no chance of being approved by a Congress that bears any resemblance to the current crop of federal lawmakers. This is why, he says, voters can’t simply elect him president, but must instead spark a “political revolution.”

Easier said than done. Congress has the largest Republican majority since the 71st Congress of 1929-31.
A successful Sanders presidency would hinge on his ability to remake Washington in his own image. It’s almost inconceivable that such a transformation could take place, even with Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress.
This echoes the single biggest item I zoomed in on at the November debate at Drake.

Coming back from commercial, Sanders was asked, paraphrasing, how he would get his program through a Republican Congress. Bernie either avoided the question or, more accurately, rejected the premise. He argued that, again paraphrasing, that he would not HAVE to deal with a Republican Congress because the Bernie Political Revolution would sweep away GOP control.

Well, more fairly, he argued that was what he NEEDED and what SHOULD happen. And granted, if the landscape changes dramatically enough to elect Bernie Sanders, there would be at least some down-ballot impact. But he never quite answered what he would do if faced with a Republican Congress.

Between unequal population distribution - Democrats waste more votes in super-safe seats - and gerrymandering, are there 218 House districts that are winnable by a progressive Democrat? Or even by a Blue Dog?

And even if the House races are a sweep, Republican Senators elected in the 2014 wave like Joni Ernst stay in office till 2020.

This answer is in character for Sanders. But it rubs editorial boards the wrong way.

Editorial boards are the last bastion of bipartisanship and neutrality. They bemoan the polarization of the parties, and they have a deep fetish for working across the aisle.It's encoded in the DNA of the Objective Journalism Paradigm. I'll bet the beret that every member of the Register editorial board is registered No Party.

(Tangent: No, it's not "Independent." The legal term in Iowa is No Party. I've never understood why people cherish that word "independent." Parties are a place you go to meet people and have fun.)

Sanders, of course, has always been about breaking old paradigms. That's a source of his strength. But that also means he was never in serious consideration for that endorsement.

The real loser tonight is Martin O'Malley, brushed aside in just one sentence that was as obligatory as it was dismissive, as "better suited to a Cabinet-level job in a Clinton White House." And my take is always been: running AGAINST Hillary is EXACTLY the wrong path to her cabinet. Look to the surrogates who are carpeting the state in the last ten days. THAT'S the Clinton 45 cabinet. OK, maybe not Demi Lovato.

There's another down side to Sanders' rejection of the premise of working across the aisle. Many Democratic voters, especially political sophisticates like Iowa caucus goers, have reluctantly accepted the idea that the House will stay Republican till at least 2022. They see the White House as the one place in the system where Democrats have the advantage, the last firewall against total Republican control. Even the tiny handful of remaining ticket splitters, the ones worshipped by editorial boards, respond to the idea of a political balance of power. Republican Congress? Democratic president.

Of course, maybe part of Sanders strength is that many Democrats want the mirror image of the defiance the Republican Congress has shown President Obama. And maybe Sanders, put in the situation he won't let himself imagine, would provide that.

But it's not a picture editorial boards like.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Green-Douglass, Dems Win With One Wing Tied Behind Backs

The Johnson County Democrats were not blindsided again, as nominee Lisa Green-Douglass handily won tonight's special election for the Board of Supervisors, with a 61-38% margin over non party candidate Chris Hoffman.

Turnout was, no nice way to put it, pitiful, with just 3295 voters. 3.8% isn't even a good beer. That's down from the already bad 6100 voters in the March 2013 special supervisor election won in a shock upset by Republican John Etheredge.

Democrats learned the lesson of that election and didn't take this for granted - some of the presidential campaigns pitched in with doorknocking. The Republican Party proper stayed out, which played a factor in the turnout drop.

Chris Hoffman ran a relatively content-free campaign, focused mostly on why political parties are bad, which fooled no one except some editorial boards who eat that shit up. The North Liberty council member seemed to focus most of his energy on that city, where he won a 75% landslide, yet Green-Douglass goes into the books as the first North Liberty supervisor (a rural Madison Township address) since maybe ever.

Green-Douglass rolled up a big 77% margin on absentees, and carried the Iowa City election day vote with 70%, losing only in new development precinct 10 (Trueblood) with very few voters and in Precinct 24 (Windsor Ridge). She even won the southwest side's precinct 8, where the Core 4 did poorly in November.

Coralville results were closer with a 53-46% Green-Douglass win. The rest of the county was all over the place. Green-Douglass struggled in the farm townships, as most courthouse Dems have in recent years.

The highest rural vote was in Newport Township, which Hoffman won with 69%. But the zero-development faction (more accurately, the "develop my area last so I can maximize the dollars when I finally do sell out" faction) gave Hoffman their protest votes, but nothing else. The names Rubright, Tulchin and Glasgow that wrote four figure checks to Etheredge to spite Terry Dahms in 2013 were absent from Hoffman's finance report.

The brief career of John Etheredge proved that trying to win a county wide general election on any ballot line other than the Democratic Party is an effort in futility. So an investment in Hoffman would have only been a short term strategy, and the Newport Gang is playing for the long term, which means saving their dollars for the June primary.

This election is just round one of the primary for the full term. Expect the nay-saying about the special election cost and tut-tutting about the low turnout to begin almost immediately, from a faction of Democrats who didn't lift a finger to boost that turnout or help Lisa. In effect, Lisa and the Democrats won with one wing tied behind their backs.


If anyone is to be blamed for the election cost, it should be Terrence Neuzil, who left town a year before his term ended for a higher paying job out of state. But instead, blame is likely to be aimed at Green-Douglass herself, and at perceived ally Rod Sullivan, who along with fellow incumbent Pat Harney will be on the decisive June 7 ballot.

The negativity is likely to be loudest from the camp of Kurt Friese, who along with Green-Douglass was gearing up for the primary when Neuzil resigned. (Also in the primary mix: Oaknoll exec director Pat Heiden - who was a registered Republican as recently as October and just became a Democrat this month after a brief transition as No Party.)


At the December 2 meeting of the vacancy committee, Friese supporters argued against an election and for an appointment, citing the length of the term and the cost of an election. After the committee decided for the election, Friese continued to argue against it in public in a misleading way, trying to meek it seem as if the decision had not already been finalized.

Friese then opted out of seeking the nomination at the December 16 Democratic convention. Depending on who you believe, he didn't want to cancel his vacation or he knew he didn't have the votes.

There are reasons you say in public, and then there are the real reasons, and one of their number made the mistake of admitting the real reasons they wanted an appointment.

Give her credit for the frankness: Caroline Dieterle argued at the December 2 meeting in favor of what she called "the Slockett rule," named for the former auditor who had a rigid policy of opposing the appointment of anyone who had lost a prior election. The invocation of the rule was clearly meant to exclude Green-Douglass, who finished a handful of votes behind Mike Carberry in the 2014 primary, from consideration, and by extension to force the appointment of Friese.

Well Tom Slockett, thank god, isn't the auditor anymore, Travis Weipert is, and Travis thinks having 3.81% of the voters decide, while not great, is better than having a three person committee decide. And Lisa Green-Douglass is off the loser list and on the winner list.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Making The Caucuses Happen, Part 1

Most of you have noticed that the pace of posts here at the Deeth Blog has slowed to a crawl, or that you're seeing the beret at fewer and fewer events, or that I can't even keep up with the Twitterverse.

There's a really good reason for that, and I'm going to use a lot what little writing time I have between now and February 1 explaining.

Close to a year ago, I offered to organize the caucuses for the Johnson County Democrats. By "the caucuses" I don't mean the campaign events - I mean the rooms and the chairs and the logistics of making the caucuses themselves happen.

This is the first in X number of posts about what has to happen to make the caucuses happen and what's going on behind the scenes of the county parties. Other counties, please steal my ideas.

Almost no one outside Iowa, and not very many people IN Iowa, gets that the caucuses are NOT an election run by the election office. They are a meeting run by the political parties. And at the local level political parties are an almost entirely volunteer operation, without the permanent infrastructure or even temporary paid labor pool an auditor has.

I'm in a unique spot, as an auditor's staffer who's also organizing the caucuses. It's a lot like work except for the key difference that I get paid at work and I take vacation time to work on caucuses.

The biggest difference is the locations. Your caucus site is not necessarily your polling place and not necessarily the same place it was last time. (Also note that because of the early 2012 date, there have NEVER been presidential caucuses under the current precinct lines. In my county precincts were extensively re-drawn.)

Polling places are more or less permanent, with occasional moves. With the caucuses, you start from scratch each time. AND you need twice as many spots, because you have two separate parties caucusing at the same time - sometimes in the same building but often not. This is a particular crunch this year when, as in 2008, both parties have open contests.

The physical needs of the space are also different. In an election, people come and go all day and there are rarely more than a few people on site at once. You can set up in a lobby or a classroom and be OK.

At the caucuses, everyone is on site at the same time. That means everyone is going through the line at the same time, and everyone needs to stay in the same physical space, at least for a while. Longer if you're a Democrat. I assume most readers get the way the vote counting goes at caucuses. If not here's a bipartisan/nonpartisan thing I wrote at work that has safe neutral examples using dead presidents.

I started working on locations back in June. In many ways, Democrats were victims of our 2008 success, when the record crowds overwhelmed sites. My gut check is turnout will retreat some from that high water mark, but I've heard multiple reports that counties had more challenges setting locations this year because of the 2008 wave.

Public-funded facilities like schools and city halls are required by law to provide caucus space at no charge to the parties in presidential years. However, no one is required to cancel school events to provide space, and that cost us a couple sites.

One problem that didn't come up: In past years sites have been scheduled then had to get re-scheduled when other states broke the nomination calendar.

Most places sign out space first come first served. In past years there has been cross-party competition to score the best spots, but I took the opposite approach and partnered with the Johnson County GOP chair, Bill Keettel, and several of the other key GOP activists. My experience is: when it comes to running a good caucus and protecting First In The Nation, we're Iowans first and Republicans and Democrats second.

The Republicans and I had a couple long meetings with my county's biggest site host, the Iowa City School District, where we went building by building and divvied up sites based on turnout estimates. In other places we shared intelligence, leg work, and even reserved space for one another.


CHECK YOUR LOCATION. Democrats have a handy statewide site looker upper. Hopefully Republicans will make one similar soon.

A lot of our Johnson County caucuses are in different locations than the "traditional" site. Key examples that locals will know: There are no Democratic caucuses at Shimek, Lemme, Longfellow, West High, or Horace Mann. Some of these were space issues based on the 2008 turnout, and the district gave Republicans (who in Johnson County expect lower turnout) those sites. At West High, it was school events.

There are also no Democratic caucuses at the Iowa Memorial Union but I'm not supposed to talk about that.

Caucus goers, make a transportation plan. Parking will be at a premium pretty much everywhere. If you can walk or cab or bus, do that. We're calling cab companies and giving them a heads up to maybe have more people on hand. And carpool, Carpool, CARPOOL. 

As for rides, the candidate of your choice is your best bet. Based on the last couple cycles, a LOT of out of state volunteers will descend on the state and rides are a perfect task for them.

In addition to the sites, county parties also need to recruit the caucus chairs. "Temporary" chairs, technically, though they are almost always chosen as permanent chairs. (I got challenged in 2012 and I may be the only one.) It's harder in some ways for parties to find chairs than for auditors to get workers. For one thing, election workers get PAID while caucus chairs are volunteers.

Also, if there aren't enough workers living in a precinct, the auditor can hire someone from another precinct and they can vote absentee. At the caucuses, you can't do that. I've seen county chairs go out to the smallest rural precinct (in an uncontested year) and "chair" it (i.e. wait for no one to arrive.) They had to give up their vote to do that.

County parties are also competing with campaigns, who need their own precinct chairs to herd the cats for Bernie or Hillary or Marty. The campaigns have been very good at sending me help. If you have candidate commitments, you can still help sign people in. It'll be better for you, because smoother sign in means alignment starts faster. And one of the challenges of cat herding is keeping your people ON SITE until the delegate allocation is final.

We recruited our 57th and last chair last week. I was stuck in the 50s for a long time till a final push, then I bounced back and forth between 56 and 57 for a day as I lost and replaced two chairs. We're having a make-up training this weekend for the new recruits and folks who missed the state party's training, which was mostly done in the mid-fall.

We have a couple local traditions in Johnson County worth mentioning.

The "stuffing party" is where we add local materials to the state-provided packets - a few supplies, but most importantly the local nomination papers. (State party takes care of legislators and congressional types.) The local candidates are expected to make up the volunteer labor force.

We also have a "Unity Party" on caucus night. Precinct chairs turn in their stuff and we watch the results and speeches. It's a good tradition that focuses folks on the end goal of winning.

Don't really have a conclusion here, just watch for more of these.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Make America Like Johnson County

Well, if Steve King wants to make America like Sioux County, I can want to make America more like Johnson County, am I right?

Sidebar tangent

Heck, we've just barely started turning Johnson County into Johnson County, with the swearing in this week of Mayor Jim Throgmorton (as called by Matt Hayek in the best political prediction since Bruce Braley accurately named the next Senate Judiciary chairman) and the rest of the Core Four progressive winners from November. 

The old guard holdovers of Dickens and Mims were pouting and posturing at the organizational meeting Monday, being political by denouncing things as being political. That's the pattern of the historic powers that be in Iowa City: whenever the left tries to change things, they're accused of "playing politics," whereas running things as they've been run forever to benefit the real estate developers and landlords is "working together."

They want their revenge and want it soon. The rumor mill says they're coming for it in the June supervisor primary and target number one is Rod Sullivan.

The message will no doubt be "we want to work with the city," which is ironic considering that the old city council was the problem in the first place. An even crueler irony if progressives, having finally taken control of the city council, would lose control of the Supervisors...

The action is in the primary of course; the brief career of John Etheredge reminded folks that a general election win under the GOP banner was too steep a climb.

Former council member Rick Dobyns was sounding an AWFUL lot like a candidate in his Press-Citizen exit interview. (Not the strongest pick: he lost a 2005 race, ran the failed 21 Bar campaign in 2007, only won in 2011 when his opponent didn't actually campaign, and lost in 2015. That's a lifetime .250, even worse than the second half of the Packer season.)

And Oaknoll executive director Pat Heiden, rumored as a candidate in the past, has finally gotten around to changing her affiliation from Republican to Democratic...
King may have used the line before (why not?) but the most recent context was introducing his presidential pick, Ted Cruz, today.

People razz on my county and call us The People's Republic of Johnson County, a term we've embraced with affection and pride. But Sioux County and the rest of the Dutch Reformed corner of northwest Iowa has no corresponding nickname even though they're WAY more red than we are blue.

Johnson County voted 66.57% for Obama in 2012, down a notch from the 70% of 2008.  But four northwest Iowa counties voted more than 70% Romney, with Sioux leading the pack at 83%. And that's in a LOSING year; Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley regularly top 90.

It's unusual that the most Republican places in a state are more Republican than the most Democratic places are Democratic. And it's also unusual that places with significant populations are as Republican as northwest Iowa.

If you ever want to get into a massive time sink of numbers - and if you read me, than I know you do - go to Dave Liep's site US Election Atlas. You have to constantly remember that he uses the worldwide convention of red for left and blue for right, rather than the American red Republicans and blue Democrats, since he built the site long before the 2000 election which locked Red States and Blue States into the vocabulary. Which you can tell from the frame-based Netscape era layout.

But the data is priceless, and one of my favorites is his superlatives page for each presidential election.

Here's the highest percentage counties for each party in 2012:

Obama Romney
Shannon, SD 93.39% King, TX 95.86%
Bronx, NY 91.45% Madison, ID 93.29%
District of Columbia, DC 90.91% Sterling, TX 92.91%
Petersburg, VA 89.79% Franklin, ID 92.77%
Prince George's, MD 89.73% Roberts, TX 92.13%

They're pretty close to equally lopsided, but there all similarity ends.

The Bronx and DC you know. Prince George's County is the black majority inner suburbs of DC. Three large jurisdictions with a lot of votes. The independent city of Petersburg is 80% black. Shannon County is entirely reservation, and last year was renamed Oglala Lakota County.

The most Republican counties, in contrast, are all virtually empty, depopulated barrens of ranch country. Romney's 96% in King County netted him just 139 votes.

Those trends continue just below the top levels, with lots of urban centers in the 70 to 80 range for Democrats, and lots of cattle voting 80% Romney.

You have to drop down a lot in percentage before you start seeing large suburban counties that contribute large actual numbers of Republican votes.

Next door in Wisconsin two counties voted more than two thirds for Romney: Ozaukee and Washington, the big suburban counties in racially polarized metro Milwaukee. Ozaukee was tops at 69.55 - but that was topped by Osceola, Lyon, O'Brien and Sioux in Iowa.

On the Democratic side, the top Obama county was Menominee at 86.5; it's all reservation ans statistically insignificant, as I recall the least populated county. The next biggest Obama margin was in Dane County. Madison is the Iowa City of Wisconsin, and Obama scored 71. Not far off from Iowa City, and college towns tend to top out at around 70% Democratic the way suburbs top out at 70% Republican.

Milwaukee was next at 67.5, below some other major cities. Milwaukee County has enough suburban turf that Scott Walker was able to get elected county executive a couple times, and Iowa doesn't really have a true metropolitan county to compare.

The larger point here is: In Wisconsin, as in most states, the most Democratic places are more Democratic than the most Republican places are Republican.  But in Iowa, that's reversed.

You look at similar counties to Sioux and Lyon in Wisconsin - mostly rural with a growing long commute/exurban influence - and they're in the mid to upper 50s for Republican percentage, and that''s true in a lot of other competitive states. That's nothing like the 70s and 80s you see in Lyon and Sioux.

That has all sorts of implications in both state and national politics, and mostly on the Republican side. Because the most conservative parts of Iowa are MORE conservative than most Republican areas, and especially because they're a particular kind of social conservative, you see presidential and state candidates focused in that direction. The most Democratic parts of Iowa, in contrast, don't leap out statistically in quite the same way.