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What you need to know to make sense of the Iowa Caucus result


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It's all over the news the 'Iowa Caucus', the first event in the USA's election process. For us over the big pond in the UK it can all get a little confusing.

New York City - NY - USA - September 3 2015: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wave to press after a press conference at Trump Tower to announce he has signed a pledge not to run as an independent candidateAmericans like to see themselves as “leaders of the free world” and they expect all of us loyal subjects to be interested and well versed in their politics.

I highly doubt the average American knows who David Cameron is, let alone our scruffy opposition grandad Jeremy Corbyn.

But we shouldn’t benchmark ourselves on the average American, we can surely do better. So being the lovely human that I am, I have decide to unfold my brain to try and wrap it around the whole befuddling game of caucuses, primaries, delegates, super-delegates and national conventions. You’re probably wondering what any of those words mean.

Here's what you need to know about the Caucus:

The Iowa Caucus, is essentially where voters can further their favoured candidate’s hopes in clinching the party nomination.

This whole process culminates at the national conventions for each party where the presidential nominee is selected. It is a fascinating and long winded process that dominates the media all over the world.

What actually is a Caucus, more importantly who and what is this super-delegate, what kind of powers are we talking about?

Caucuses and primaries are the ways in which a party nominates its candidate for the presidential election.

Each state has a certain number of delegates that represent them at the party’s national convention (Democrats and Republicans). The caucuses and primaries are where candidates can snag a number of delegates for themselves. The more delegates you can get, the more likely you will be the candidate nominated to represent your party in the presidential election.

So they’re the same thing? What about those super guys?

Not exactly.

Caucuses have been the method of selecting presidential candidates since the 1800’s. They were attended by the elites in society who decided how the country was run.

The primary elections system emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction against the total control of elections by the party elites. They incorporated the process of secret ballots and were more open to everyday citizens who wanted to make their voices heard in the political landscape.

Some states hold either primaries or caucuses while some do both. There are open primaries and caucuses where anyone can cast their vote and closed ones where only registered party members can vote. The voting methods also differ in most cases along party lines and also state lines.

Democratic caucuses are a bit like a game of “Hungry Hungry Hippos” (I know it’s a stretched analogy) where voters are gobbled up like marbles by whichever candidate is most appealing to them in a labelled corner of the room.

Candidates with less than 15% of the votes are deemed not viable and their voters can either join a different candidate or go home and sulk. The process is repeated until only viable candidates are left.

Republicans on the other hand use a secret ballot like in a normal election. Basically voters pick their favoured candidates, these votes are then used to calculate how many delegates a candidate will take to the national convention. At the national convention the candidate with the most delegates wins the nomination.

Who won? Please do not show your working this time.

So far all we have had is the Iowa Caucus which took place on the 1st February.

Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were virtually tied at 50% of the vote each in the Democratic caucus. Although Hilary Clinton clinched the victory with 49.8% to Sanders’s 49.6%.

Bernie Sanders is kind of like Jeremy Corbyn, in that they are both attempting to do their best impression of Peter Finch in the movie Network. He has amassed support from young liberal voters and has exceeded establishment expectations by tying with Clinton.

The Republicans had a close three way split for a large share of the votes, Ted Cruz with 28% Donald Trump with 24% and Marco Rubio with 23%. The number of delegates assigned to each candidate are calculated based on these percentages.

Wait, Donald Trump came in second place? What is the world coming to?

As many commentators have pointed out, the main takeaway from Iowa is momentum and media expectations.

Donald Trump might have come in second but his entire campaign has been fixated on “winning” so not winning is kind of a big blow to him even though he didn’t lose by a big margin. Trump was leading the pack in most polls before the caucus began so his loss is a signal that real voters who turn up might not be swayed by his bombastic pledges and demagoguery. This is good news for people who are getting tired of looking at Trump’s constantly constipated orange façade.

The big winner in the Republican field is Marco Rubio who came in close third and will receive a large of amount of media coverage as he will now be seen as an electable candidate by the establishment and by previously reserved voters.

What is a Marco Rubio? Is he the SUPER-DELEGATE?

Marco Rubio is Cuban-American and the Florida state senator. He is claiming the moderate ground in the Republican race but that isn’t hard to do when going up against the likes of Cruz and Trump.

He has said he doesn’t support laws that use rape and incest as legal exceptions for abortions, but he wants to make college more affordable so you know, you can’t win all of them.

But the Democrats are the real contenders right? Also I’m starting to feel like you only mentioned super-delegates to get me excited, they don’t really exist?

Well various polls are showing that Hillary Clinton is not doing very well against the establishment Republicans like Cruz and Rubio.

Sanders seems to fair better against them but his inability to gain a clear victory over Clinton in Iowa could be seen as problem. Iowa is where his key demographic of white liberal men should have helped.

Clinton seems to fair a lot better with minorities than he does. We Brits can take all of this with a grain of salt, our dreadful experience of British polls in last year’s elections tells us that pollsters are not to be trusted!

A lot of voters seem to hate Clinton because they see her as a careerist politician and even Ted Cruz’s friends don’t really like him that much. What is really interesting about American politics is the great divide between parties, especially on social issues (and the totally non ironic campaign ads). You wouldn’t catch a Tory MP saying half of what is regularly spouted by the Republican candidates.

The Iowa caucus combined with the upcoming New Hampshire primary (9th February) have been a great decider of who gets the party nomination.

“Every winner of a competitive major party presidential nomination contest since 1980 except one started off by winning the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, or both” according to Vox. That doesn’t mean this year will follow that trend, there is still a while to go before the final primaries in June. We still have Super Tuesday to look forward to.

OMG is Super Tuesday when the super-delegates fight in the game of thrones?

No it’s just the day when the most number of states hold their primaries. Successful candidates can hope to win a large amount of delegates. It’s on the 1st of March.

I don’t care anymore.

They don’t really live up to their title.

Yeah, I was disappointed too.

By the way the Republican national convention is July 18–21 and the Democratic convention is July 25–28


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