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Iowa caucuses, classic local politics, start search for candidates to become US president

Iowa caucuses, classic local politics, start search for candidates to become US president

A longtime speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is famous for his observation that "all politics is local."
The comment by Democrat Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill is particularly relevant to next week's Iowa caucuses in which voters in that Midwestern state hold simultaneous meetings that begin the process by which Americans choose their presidents every four years.
The gatherings have for decades afforded Iowans influence over the presidential race that far outweighs their state's political weight. Since 1976 the Iowa caucuses have been the first candidate-choosing exercise in the presidential campaigns.
Candidates who do well in the caucuses and the subsequent New Hampshire primary often secure a distinct advantage in winning their party's support as the presidential candidate. Those who fare poorly often drop out.
This year they will be Jan. 3, the earliest ever, 10 months before the November election.
Iowa is among five states that use caucuses rather than primary elections to choose candidates to represent them at both the Democrats and the Republicans' conventions to choose the parties' candidates for president. All are in the Midwest or West: Alaska, Colorado, Nevada and North Dakota.
The word "caucus" is from an American Indian language, thought to be of the Algonquin tribe that populated much of what is now the northern and northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Its original meaning, a gathering of ruling tribal chiefs, morphed into the current meaning of political party members gathered to enact policy decisions and choose candidates.
In Iowa, potential voters _ anybody at least 18 years old who can prove residence in the state _ gather by Republican or Democratic party designation in schoolhouses, public buildings or private homes.
Candidates must have 15 percent of the vote to advance to the county convention, and the parties have differing methods of doing their business.
For Republicans, presidential preference is decided by simple straw votes.
The Democratic method is much more convoluted.
After a round of voting, supporters of candidates considered nonviable, or incapable of finishing high among the eight Democratic candidates, can join a viable candidate's group; merge with another nonviable candidate's group to become viable; get together with other groups as uncommitted caucus members; or choose to stay in the nonviable group and not be counted.
Nonviable groups must realign within 30 minutes or ask for more time, which the a vote of the caucus can grant or deny. Refusal means they must realign into combinations that would be awarded delegates.
The caucus results are not binding on delegates selected from either party. Traditionally, however, the delegates usually feel obligated to follow the wishes expressed by the caucus-goers.


Updated : 2021-06-21 20:21 GMT+08:00