Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Iowa caucuses

Chaos and Confusion in the Corn State

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

Iowa drops the ball on caucus night, February 3. We still don’t know the results of the Iowa caucuses of Monday night, and it’s Tuesday afternoon.

Donald J. Trump will, no doubt, say something along the lines of, “Look at the Democrats. They can’t even hold an election. How can they run a country?” when he makes his State of the Union address tonight. I’d like to see the Iowa Democratic Party delay releasing the tardy results until the exact moment that the Orange One begins talking. That would be poetic justice.

I’ve actually been to the Iowa caucuses, in 2008. I wasn’t voting, but observing. What I observed in Des Moines was orchestrated chaos that was very home-spun and folksy, but not that efficient. There were all sorts of journalists from all over the globe snaking through the lunch room of the elementary school where my college roommate and I went so that she could caucus.

One thing that remained constant from 2008 to 2020 is that Joe Biden was among those one could vote for at both times. So was John Edwards back then, and I was an early Edwards supporter, while friend Pam caucused for Joe.

I’ve been watching the results (or non-results) of the caucus last night “live” on television since last night. I watched Precinct 38 in Des Moines weigh in, with 2 delegates going for Warren, 2 for Mayor Pete, and 1 to Sanders. Then, the talking heads switched to Cedar Rapids where 437 caucus goers  had gathered. There were 2 ruined ballots, we were told, but Mayor Pete got 26.5%, Warren 19.8%, Amy 18.4%, Sanders 18.4% and Joe Biden 16.8%.

The talking heads today are saying, “Old School was faster.” The back-up of paper ballots is what the Iowa Democratic party is now falling back on to laboriously count them by hand in 1700 caucus locations. “It’s beyond Old School. It’s really rudimentary,” says CNN’s Dana Bash.

During the evening, we viewers were also taken inside Drake University’s Field House (gymnasium) where 400 people had turned out. Sixty-six people would make a “viable” candidate.

In North Liberty, Iowa, just outside Iowa City, bigger numbers were expected than appeared. 591 showed up. Eighty-nine caucus goers meant that one’s candidate was “viable.”

In Cedar Rapids, 900 voters were expected, but 437 showed up. It appeared that Pete, Warren and Sanders prevailed with Biden in 4th and Klobuchar down there in the standings with the former VP. In another Des Moines precinct, 356 people showed up and we were told that fifty-six people would make for a viable candidate. Pete, Sanders and Warren were prevailing. Would the more rural districts weighing in change all this? Don’t know; can’t tell you. Just like the Iowa Democratic Party.

One group, forming 16%, refused to be categorized. They were originally Cory Booker delegates, but there were not enough bodies for Cory to prevail without throwing in with others, and that is what happened, with Biden and Klobuchar people forming an “uncomittted” group. It was weird.

“State of the Union” tonight.

By midnight, nobody knew anything, although, in Grinnell, large screens were lowered from the ceiling that showed the images of Warren, Biden and Pete, at one precinct in this college town.

Overall, it was complete confusion and the much-vaunted “app” seems to have been part of the reason why. One wonders if older volunteers who had done this “the old-fashioned way” for over 20 years were quick to pick up on “the app.” I was reminded of me trying to teach my mom how to program her VCR.

When all was said and done, it appears that Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie seem to have done well, while Biden is in trouble, both monetarily and in terms of live bodies that showed up. It is now 12:15 p.m., the afternoon of the day AFTER the caucus, and there are still no definitive results known. There are 41 delegates at stake, which is not that many, but the real fall-out is going to be for Iowa.

If Iowa loses its “First in the nation” designation, the millions spent on television and radio spots go away. The economic boom for housing and feeding all of the campaign workers who come from afar goes away. The idea that Iowa can give candidates a boost, as it did for Obama in ’08, goes away. Iowa’s position as national “influencers” goes away.

I would posit the idea that this is a very bad day for Iowa and Iowans. The state looks like it doesn’t know how to conduct a caucus, and they’ve had many, many years to get the process down.  Now the talking heads are all saying they want to see the caucuses “go away.” That means no more visits from national candidates to the Hawkeye state, and it is the state itself that will be hurt the most.

The delay in reporting results may work to the benefit of such old soldiers as Joe Biden, who did not seem to be doing well early in the evening. It seems that the new kid on the block, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were the ones who came on strong, from what little we know. It remains to be seen if the money is going to be sufficient for candidates like Klobuchar and Biden, whose coffers are becoming increasingly bare.

It makes one wonder if Mike Bloomberg of the bottomless pockets had thought this through and decided to go all in on being there as an alternative candidate when former Vice President Biden collapsed. Did the “smear” in the Senate (the Ukraine thing) take its toll? These are points that will be debated for years.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on in New Hampshire.

Iowa Caucuses in Des Moines, January 3, 2012: A First-Hand Report

January 04, 2012

What the Candidates Spent Per Vote

Derek Thompson of BuzzFeed broke down the data on political spending in Iowa to determine how much each candidate and their supporters paid per vote in the Iowa caucuses.

The breakdown: Rick Perry spent far more than any other candidate with $478.40 per vote, followed by Mitt Romney at $154.90, Ron Paul at $103.30, Newt Gingrich at $89.84, Rick Santorum at just $20.50, and Michele Bachmann at $3.95.

I attended the caucuses in Des Moines as an observer at Precinct #4 in Clive. The building housed a management investment firm, DeWray Capital Management, at 1301 University. When we arrived at my friend’s original polling place, we learned that it was a very small precinct, but Rick Santorum was expected, in person, in Clive, so it was to Clive that we went next.

Rick Santorum asking Clive Precinct #4 voters for their vote on caucus night. He came within 8 vote of winning.

We could barely get inside the door to hear the pitches for each of the candidates. I actually ended up handing my Nikon D90 to a man who was at least 6’ 7”, and asking him to see if he could get a picture of Santorum, whom we could hear, but not see. Santorum was making a pitch for 2-parent families and talking about how people need to work and get married. He said, “You can’t mention or promote the word.  We need someone who is going to draw a strong contrast (to the incumbent).” Rick Santorum said he stood for limited government, lower taxes and less government and added, “I’ve put forth a balanced budget. I would balance the budget in 5 years. I also have the experience. He claimed to be the major author of 2 pieces of legislation on Syrian and Iran.  He ended by saying, “You need a leader who will make sure that tour enemies will fear us and our allies will trust us.” Santorum did not make mention of his remark (on “Meet the Press”) that he would bomb Iran if they crossed his “line in the sand.” Santorum said that those who participated in the Iowa caucuses would be better leaders because they came to Iowa.  “If it were not for the caucuses, it would just be media buys and TV ads.  If we’re fortunate, Iowa will be one of the battlegrounds.  People like me criss-crossed this state.  Come 2012 we’re gonna’ put it back in the Bush column.  Whatever differences there may be, they pale into insignificance (with the incumbent.) Santorum cited the federal take-over of the auto industry, never once mentioning that, without such intervention, there would now BE no auto industry in the U.S. He also talked about the financial bail-out of Wall Street and Health Care, saying it represented 1/7 of our GDP. He claimed that the failed stimulus plan cost 4 million jobs and said, “Iran is on the verge of nuclear weapons.  This is the record of this administration.” (*Actually, much of it is the legacy of the failed administration of George W. Bush.) He cited the Hyde Amendment of late 70s and said, “We must pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on us, because it does.” At no time did Santorum make mention of Obama’s successes such as taking out Osama bin Laden, getting any health care help out to the masses at all, or bringing home the troops from Iraq.

Ron Paul's After-Party sported a dog named Reeses wearing Ron Paul for President buttons,

At this point, “defeat Obama” clipboards were handed out and comments were made about what a powerful Republican voting block “Clive 4”is. (“We need your help.”)

After Santorum finished, representatives for the other candidates spoke on their candidates’ behalf.

Michele Bachman

Christina Messinia, speaking for Michele Bachman.

First up was a young woman in a black top and tight red pants with gold sparkly flats. She was dressed inappropriately for such an elite group. She did not speak well and looked as though she were no more than 21 years old. Her name was Christina Messinia and she espoused Christian values and the values of Ronald Reagan, calling Bachman “an inspiration” and “fearless.” Her pitch was weak.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul’s grandson, 13-year-old Robert “Robb” Paul came to the microphone next, accompanied by his mother Kelly, wife of Rand Paul.  She mentioned her 21 years of marriage and ‘cousins by the dozens” and then let young Robb deliver a message about his grandfather, the 74-year-old Ron Paul.  Kelly cited the fact that only 4 U.S. Congressmen stood up for Ronald Reagan when he wished to run for President, and one of them was Ron Paul. Kelly mentioned that Ron Paul had predicted the economic

Robert "Rob" Paul, son of Rand Paul and grandson of Ron Paul, delivers a pitch for his 74-year-old Grandfather in Clive.

collapse and went on to say that he would make $1 trillion in cuts without cutting Social Security or the national defense budget.  She also said, “He (Paul) believes that war is not something we should go into without a Congressional declaration of war.” Kelly said, “National polls show him defeating Barack Obama in a head-to-head combat,” which she quickly changed to “head-to-head match-up.”  Then young Rob had his say and was very cute.

Newt Gingrich                                      

Newt Gingrich's daughter, Jackie Cushman and son.

Newt Gingrich had sent a married daughter from one of his 3 marriages.  Her name was Jackie Cushman and she brought her 2 children, a boy and a girl, whom, she said, would have to write a paper about the experience of the Iowa caucuses “as a civics lesson,” which caused her daughter to roll her eyes.  Ms. Cushman rambled on about how Newt was the son of a 27-year World War II infantryman who served at Verdun and “A man who would risk his life for his dogs.” She said, “He is a doer not a talker,” although the impression I got of Newt at his rally here in town is that he is more of a talker than a doer.

Rick Perry

Jennifer Hayes, speaking for Rick Perry at the Clive Precinct #4.

Next up was Jennifer Hayes, who said, “I’m not a member of his staff. Just a follower.” She declared that she became a follower when she met Perry at church on Sunday. She cited his track record and “the person that he is.” She said she was “tired of politicians saying one thing and doing another.  As the mother of 3 children, I want my country back.” It was about this point in time that I noticed that the audience did not have one single brown, black or any other ethnic face. It was singularly old and white.

Mitt Romney

Ambassador Mary Kremer spoke on behalf of Mitt Romney, citing her 13 years in the state legislature.  She said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Mary said that the 4thprecinct was “a bellwether precinct.” She also said, “It’s not so much who wins,

Ambassador Mary Kremer speaks for Mitt Romney in Clive on caucus night,

it is that everyone can who comes here to show us who they are, what their values are. “ She then touted Romney’s leadership skills and his ability to create a vision of the future and said something about, “The world is a better place if the next century is an American century.” Ms. Kremer added, “It is a very different thing to get something passed than to get something implemented.” She claimed that every leadership opportunity Mitt Romney had encountered had been “a success,” although Wikipedia notes how his Mormon trip to France to try to convert the French to Mormonism did not go so well, at first. Of Obama, Ms. Kremer said, “On his best day he says, it could be worse.  In my view, worse would be having a second term for our current president.” She described Romney as steadfast (despite evidence that he has changed his position(s) many times) and said, “He would never do anything in office that would embarrass the country or you or me.” (*The Ambassador must have a crystal ball to know such things.) She ended her remarks by saying, “Romney is the one candidate they (the Democrats) fear more than any other.”
That last part is probably true, even if the other parts weren’t. The Clive group did go for Romney in polling, although my hometown county (Buchanan) went for Santorum, which is disappointing, and Pocahontas County also seemed smitten with Santorum. What I have read about his taking his dead child home so his other children could play with it and subjecting his unborn child and pregnant wife to possible death, rather than a therapeutic abortion, also did not make sense. Santorum also said, on the most recent “Meet the Press,” that he would bomb Iran.

Newt Gingrich and wife Callista (& family) on caucus night in Des Moines.

After we left Clive, we went to the downtown Marriott, in search of the Ron Paul After-Party. It turned out that we were at the wrong Marriott. The streets of downtown Des Moines were deserted and there were many parking places on the streets. We went inside and ordered one drink and, during that brief period, while we talked to other caucus observers from Wisconsin (one named Moriarty), we learned that we should have gone to the Ankeny Marriott for the Ron Paul After-Party and I was able to get a picture of Newt Gingrich, his wife and entourage.

We drove out to Ankeny to the Marriott and just missed Ron Paul’s remarks to the crowd assembled. I took pictures of a dog named Reeses wearing Ron Paul buttons and we left and went home.

It was a very dull night out. “When did the Republican party become the party of the emotionally unstable?” asked David Letterman on his January 4th program.

When, indeed.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House (or) From “Fredhead” to “Deadhead”

Jeri Kehn Thompson and Me: Beret DayFred gives an autograph in Davenport, Iowa, on the campaign trail.

When Fred Thompson announced on Jay Leno’s “Tonight” show on June 12, 2007, that he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, ending months of speculation, his prospects looked rosy. A March 29th Gallup-USA Today survey showed Thompson running third, just behind John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, among Republicans in the race. Thompson’s poll numbers in September were in the high 20s and low 30s. By the end of the year, his poll numbers had sunk to single digits.Fred possessed a commanding stage presence, that familiar air of gravitas, and built-in national recognition from his movie and television roles. He also had been Minority Counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, better known as the Watergate Committee, in 1973-74. Thompson was a lawyer and a former Senator from Tennessee, elected on November 8, 1994, to fill the unexpired portion of the term left vacant by Al Gore’s resignation. He was sworn in for his first term on 12/2/94.

Thompson was re-elected the Republican Senator from Tennessee in 1996. Responding to charges of “laziness” leveled against him throughout his career Thompson retorted in an article entitled “The Fred Express” in NewsMax magazine (September 2007 interview with John Fund, columnist for the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com and The American Spectator): “That’s what they said about me before I ran for Senate the first time, and that’s what they said about me two years later, when I ran for re-election. I won the first time by 21 points, and by 25 points the second time. That was in a state that Bill Clinton carried twice. If you can do that while being lazy, I recommend it to everyone.”

What, exactly, happened, then, to the political Second Coming of Fred Thompson? Why didn’t his run for the roses, his political comeback, have a fairy tale ending?

There are several theories that help explain why, in Columbia, South Carolina on election night, Fred Thompson stood before his supporters for the final time, saying, “We will always be bound by a close bond because we have traveled a very special road, bound together for a very special purpose. We’ll always stand strong together, we’ll always stand strong together, and I can’t thank you enough for that.”

And, as the cartoon finale goes, “Th-th-th-that’s, all, Folks.”

Shortly thereafter, Thompson announced he was dropping his bid for the Presidency and, soon after that, he endorsed his old Senate colleague John McCain for the Republican nomination for the Presidency.

What went wrong?
(To be Continued)

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