The moment of truth has finally arrived. We shall find out tonight, Monday, February 1st, who will win the 2016 Iowa Caucus? The latest polls show Donald Trump up by 5 to 6 points over rival Ted Cruz on the Republican side of the ballot. Trump has been surging the past three weeks, sending the Cruz campaign into panic mode. They may be in some hot water over a mailer charging ″Voter Violations″ to recipients. The Secretary of State of Iowa says that the mailer ″misrepresents″ the officials running the department. Marco Rubio also dispatched a mailer which is intended to scare or shame voters. Meanwhile, for the Democrats we have high drama as Hillary Rodham Clinton is in a nearly dead heat with Bernie Sanders. All of this as the FBI investigations probes deeper into her private email server, searching for more top secret documents. Turn out is king in Iowa, which is facing a major snow storm later this evening.
I am betting on a turn out well above average, with many first-time caucus goers. Unlike ′normal′ elections, a caucus is very different as there is a very limited time to vote. How does the caucus work? First, you have to know where to caucus? There are over 1,600 caucus sites in Iowa′s 99 counties. Once you determine which precinct you belong to and know where to go, you have to show up by 7pm Central Time. The doors are closed at 7pm, though precincts with long lines will remain open until those caucus goers who were in line before 7pm can get in.
If you are voting in the Republican caucus, then the procedure is very simple. Just write your pick down in a secret ballot and put it in the box. Some call this a ′firehouse caucus′. Delegates are assigned by the percentage of votes received. There may be some politicking before the voting begins, but most voters have probably made up their minds by the time they show up.
On the Democrat side, the game is very different. Speeches are first made by representatives of each candidate. Then you have to go to the corner or area assigned for supporters of each candidate. There is also an area for Undecided. Then a head-count is taken. Candidates are only eligible for winning delegates if they have more than 15% of the vote. If one or more do not meet that threshold, then the process continues until you only have candidates, or Undecideds, with more than 15%. With the latest polls showing Clinton only 3% up over Sanders, and Martin O′Malley with about 3-4%, where his supporters wind up will make a big difference. Again, turn out, especially of younger and first-time caucus goers, would seem to favor Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.
So what are your predictions for tonight′s 2016 Iowa Caucus? Who will win? Who will go on to New Hampshire with a bounce? Which candidates will drop out should they lose? The fun begins at 7pm Central and is expected to end around 10pm CST. With any luck, we will know who won the Iowa Caucus shortly after. However, as we recall from 2012, that may not be the case! Mitt Romney had been declared the winner, but a recount proved that Rick Santorum won, two weeks later. I doubt if we will have that problem this time for the GOP, but with Hillary and Bernie so close, a winner may be in doubt for some time.