The 2024 Republican Iowa caucus will be in the books by the end of the day. Despite campaign confetti, souvenir signs, and swag, candidates will say goodbye to the state until a presidential primary victor emerges. Tonight’s scheduled events will begin at individual precinct locations in all 99 counties expressly at 7 p.m. and conclude when discussions and votes are counted. There will be a hangover, but the Hawkeye State will soon return to normal.
Good Old Days
Once a combination of Red Rover and a cakewalk at a church social, the caucus has been described as a gathering of friends who will show up to school gymnasiums, social halls, and community centers and declare their individual loyalties. A candidate representative will be deployed to each county location and give a three-minute speech for their guy or gal to be elected to the highest office in the land. Each precinct carves out its delegate seats to match caucusgoers’ votes.
But the trick was, even if a voter marched in determined to write the name in for candidate “A” – forming a preference group – they could be persuaded by a friend or neighbor to change their mind and join another group. Depending on the size of the group, electioneering was concluded, and votes were counted. In a Democratic caucus, a candidate group had to have 15 % of the participants to be considered “viable.” Then, another round of vote tallying was conducted. Many candidates, especially during presidential years, have been labeled not worthy.
The GOP caucus counts everyone after the process concludes.
Haggling, angling, and persuasions were employed during the window of opportunity. But the rules changed in 2022, and now GOP voters still listen to candidate representatives for a brief three minutes, but they don’t allow for the Red Rover style of politicking to lure or steal away a potential delegate.
Iowa Is Still Funky
Amid blizzard conditions, temperatures in the negative numbers, and the wind chill factor falling even lower, Iowa will still show up for a good round of caucusing. This is expected to be the coldest caucus in recent history, sporting freezing temperatures, terrifying winds, and snow drifts covering the farm truck. Campaign buttons are proudly displayed on multiple layers of clothes and down coats, with a few clever messages encouraging attendance, such as “Rock Out With Your Caucus Out” and “They’re Letting Us Do This Again!”
Today’s menu item at the Des Moines location of Zombie Burger is Day One Dic-Tator, described as a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos orange kielbasa with Russian dressing. Yes, it’s a nod to the man leading the GOP pack. The Des Moines Register/NBC News poll published on Saturday has Trump at 48%, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley a distant second with 20%, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in third with 16%.
As one expert on the contest points out, the caucus sometimes elevates the less popular candidate as well. A “very well organized, very socially conservative evangelical voting bloc” has, at times, boosted a socially conservative candidate “who remains an important contender but not the frontrunner,” Matt Dallek, a professor of political management at George Washington University, advised.
Is Iowa Still Relevant?
The Democratic National Committee kicked Iowa to the curb on the early lineup business, claiming Hawkeyes aren’t indicative of the party’s racial demographics. In 2024, the Iowa Democrats are skipping the caucus and utilizing the mail-in ballot with preprinted boxes for President Joe Biden, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), and Marianne Williamson. Democrats will have an option for “uncommitted” folks.
Maybe the Democrats are correct – or maybe not. Wallet Hub found that Iowa was indeed representative of America overall. “Our data set of 22 key measures includes sociodemographic, economic, educational, and religious metrics as well as public stances on certain issues.” Wallet Hub explained its findings in an email, saying:
- 63% of Iowa-caucus winners have won the Democratic Party nomination and 44.4% the Republican Party nomination. The Iowa caucuses, therefore, are a much better predictor of advancement for Democrats than for Republicans.
- Iowa most resembles the U.S. in terms of mean work hours, with 99.48 percent similarity; unemployment rate, with a 99.10 percent similarity; school enrollment, with a 99.02 percent similarity; and importance of religion in one’s life, with a 99.00 percent similarity.
The financial organization found that the overall resemblance to the rest of America, including sociodemographics, education, religion, and public opinion, landed in a high 89% index. Iowa falls to 50% in terms of racial makeup. Score one for the DNC.
But all good and funky things must end. And Iowa will be allowed some semblance of normal once more – until the official nominee is selected, and then the fevered rush of presidential campaigning will start all over again.