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Moving Into the 2008 Election Year with the Iowa CaucusesTim King Salem-News.com
Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are the state's choices to advance to the national election.
(DES MOINES, Iowa) - Early returns showed Iowa leaning toward John Edwards on the Democratic side, but then Clinton began edging in when 415 of the 1,781 precincts had reported. But as expected Obama took the lead as the state's favorite. The Iowa Republicans pick is Mike Huckabee.
The Iowa Caucuses are an important step during the years that a new U.S. President is elected. The Caucuses are an important step in the electoral process, and a reminder that our nation will soon have another Commander in Chief.
They involve voting, but are not an election. The Caucuses are the method by which Iowa citizens select presidential delegates to the state's County Conventions. This hearkens back to another time when transportation especially in states like Iowa can be difficult. Many say the approach is far outdated for the 21st Century.
This discussion about the Iowa Caucuses will continue at the bottom of the story. What tonight is really about is far more important than the history of any outdated political process, it is first step in the narrowing down of a gaggle of candidates that hail from far and wide. Tonight each of the two main political parties begin the process of selecting their main contender.
The Republican getting most of the attention in Iowa is Mike Huckabee. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama is the favorite. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were almost deadlocked for second place, literally to percentage points as the last precincts were filed.
The Des Moines Register attributes Obama's rise to a dramatic influx of first-time caucus goers, including a sizable group of political independents. Both say they prefer Obama in what everyone agrees has been a very competitive campaign.
Obama was the choice of 32 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, and that is up from 28 percent in the Register's last poll in late November. Hillary Clinton held steady with 25 percent and Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was virtually unchanged at 24 percent.
Of course it is important to remember that Iowa is only one state in a diverse nation and the values and choices of Iowans are not a reflection of the way people feel about the candidates in the other 49 states. Unique for the highly conservative Midwest, Iowa is a "blue state" which sided with the Democrats in the 2000 elections. It has seven votes in the Electoral College, which is the same as Oregon.
It is our goal to bring you the results as they come in tonight. Those numbers will be reflected in the story subtitle which will be updated.
Here are the latest updated results from the Iowa Democratic Party:
* Iowa currently has all of its 1781 precincts reporting.
Mike Huckabee is being declared winner of the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucuses.
Iowa Caucuses: History
The Iowa caucus are an electoral event in which residents of the U.S. state of Iowa elect delegates to the county convention to which their precinct belongs in a caucus.
There are 99 counties in Iowa and thus 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 (the national conventions).
The Iowa caucus is noteworthy for the amount of media attention it receives during U.S. presidential election years: Since 1972, the Iowa caucus has been the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States.
Although only about one percent of the nation's delegates are chosen by the Iowa state convention, the initial caucus has served as an early indication of which candidates for President might win the nomination of their political party at that party's national convention.
The political parties run the caucuses according to party rules. The Iowa Caucuses are not governed by the Secretary of State's Office.
The Iowa caucus is commonly recognized as the first step in the U.S. presidential nomination process for both political parties. It came to national attention in 1972 when the New York Times reported on how non-primary states would choose their delegates for the national conventions. Democratic operative Norma S. Matthews, state co-chair of the George McGovern campaign, helped engineer the early January start for Iowa. Four years later, the Iowa Republican Party scheduled its party caucuses on the same date as the Democrats.
In 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was able to use the publicity of his "win" to achieve victory in the New Hampshire primary, and then to win his party's nomination and eventually the Presidency. Since then, Presidential candidates have increased their focus on winning the Iowa caucus.
The Republicans in 1980 began the tradition of holding a straw poll at their caucuses, giving the appearance of a primary election. Lessons are learned though, and when George H. W. Bush campaigned extensively in Iowa, defeating Ronald Reagan, he still to win the nomination. Iowa is only one state and not a reflection of the nation at large.
The Caucuses have been a financial boon to the state, but insiders say the political value of the Iowa caucuses has gone up and down over the years. In 1988, for example, the candidates who eventually won the nominations of both parties came in third in Iowa. In elections without a sitting President or Vice President, the Iowa winner has gone on to the nomination only about half the time.
When Iowa Senator Tom Harkin ran for the Democratic nomination in 1992, none of the other Democratic candidates chose to compete in Iowa. That greatly minimized the importance of the Iowa Caucus to the nomination process. President Bush was unopposed on the Republican side.
Democrats have tried to preserve the position of Iowa and New Hampshire in their nominating schedules, but the Republicans have not. Alaska and Hawaii generally have their caucuses before Iowa, and in 1988 the Hawaii victory of Pat Robertson and the 1996 Louisiana victory of Pat Buchanan over Senator Phil Gramm had a significant impact on the results in Iowa, showing them as even less of an indicator of the national picture than before.
Still, the caucuses are closely followed by the media and can be an important factor in determining who remains in the race and who drops out. But to show how things can change, the only non-incumbent candidate to win his party's caucus and go on to win the general election was George W. Bush in 2000.
Neither Reagan nor Clinton won prior to their first terms. No incumbent President has run opposed in his own party's caucus since Jimmy Carter in 1980.
In the months leading up to the 2004 caucus, predictions showed candidates Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean neck-and-neck for first place, with John Kerry and John Edwards far behind them. Negative campaign ads attacking each other by the two front runners soured the voters on them, and a last minute decision by Kerry to put all his remaining money in Iowa swung voters towards him. Gephardt's presidential hopes were dashed and Dean's badly battered, as Kerry become the second non-incumbent to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since Edmund Muskie in 1972.
Special thanks to Wikipedia for information on the Iowa Caucuses
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