A Guide to the Caucuses

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney beat former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucus last Wednesday by a razor-thin 8 votes. Undoubtedly, the common saying that “every vote counts” holds true in this case.

While the event was historical due to Romney’s slim margin of victory, one needs to consider a couple of facts before referring to it as “unpredictable” and “unexpected” as some news pundits and analysts have dubbed it to be.

According to the latest survey by the U.S. Census Bureau taken in 2010, there are about 3 million people who populate Iowa. Of the 3 million Iowans, only 122,000 people voted in the Iowa caucuses and 99 percent of them are white. Ninety-nine percent is not a surprising figure considering that 91.3 percent of Iowans are white. However, with all due respect to the caucus system, does it make sense to have 99 percent of whites determine the early onset and momentum of a presidential nomination race? 122,000 is a worryingly  small number to have such a great impact on an election impacting the lives of over 308 million Americans.

With the low turnout, perhaps the real winner here is incumbent President Obama. Michele Bachmann suspended her campaign as a result of her disappointing showing in Iowa while Texas Gov. Rick Perry heavily considered dropping out of the race also. All of this is a result of Bachmann and Perry not receiving the majority vote from 122,000 Iowans out of a possible 3 million.

Keep in mind that Santorum’s rise to virtually tie Romney was a result of a remarkable and well-documented grassroots movement in Iowa which allowed him to literally go door-to-door convincing Iowans to vote for him. In case you’re wondering, Santorum held 377 rallies in 99 Iowa counties. Would this strategy work and reap success in larger states such as Florida and California? We highly doubt it. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Orange County also has a population of 3 million. Imagine if you could have as many opportunities as Iowans to determine who the best presidential nominee is so early in the process.

According to the betting site Intrade, Romney’s chances for winning the Republican nomination are better than 80 percent now that he has won the Iowa caucuses.  Granted, Iowa and New Hampshire are the first states to have a voice in determining the Republican presidential nominee to go against President Obama in the fall, which is why Perry ultimately decided to stay in the GOP race and focus his efforts on a rebound in the South Carolina caucuses. However, Iowa and New Hampshire are not representative of the United States as a whole: They are overwhelmingly white, more rural, and wealthier than the national average.

Super Tuesday refers to the Tuesday in February or March of a presidential election year when the greatest number of states will hold their primary elections to select delegates to send to the national convention and officially nominate the party’s presidential candidate.

More delegates can be won on Super Tuesday than on any other single day of the primary calendar, and it makes sense that the Republican candidates remaining seeking the presidency must traditionally do well on that day to secure their party’s nomination since it represents a true test of national exposure. The states participating in Super Tuesday will be Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. By the time we get to vote in the California primary on June 5, the Republican nominee will probably be decided already with Super Tuesday on March 6.

California is also one of the last states to have their primary this presidential election cycle. Regardless of which candidate you endorse and what political party you believe in, the caucus system and starting in one small state is definitely antiquated and needs to go.

Please send comments to newuopinion@newuniversity.org. Include your name, year and major.