Weekly Presidential Politics - 12/5/07
The recent Des Moines poll still has political America in a tizzy. Obama's roaring, Hillary's vulnerable, and Edwards is fading. Thus spake the masses.
What if I were to tell you that an Obama-Hillary-Edwards finish is just as likely as an Edwards-Hillary-Obama finish? Or an Edwards-Obama-Hillary finish, or a Hillary-Edwards-Obama victory, or, well, you get the point.
See, what's consistently overlooked when it comes to the Democratic Iowa Caucus are the interesting rules attached to the contest. These rules are unlike any other primary of either party, including the Republican Iowa Caucus. The most important of these rules is: if a candidate doesn't reach a particular threshold (percentage of votes), the votes that were going to him go to the voter's "second choice."
Example: The threshold is placed at 15% (It's usually between 15 and 25). Only the three candidates end up exceeding that threshold. Richardson gets 8%, Biden get 6%, etc. The votes intended for Richardson, Biden, et. al get scattered into the top 3, depending on the voter's second choice. (Note: The reason for this is because Iowans want to make sure their votes go their top candidates and a viable candidate, if these two aren't the same person. Not that bad of an idea, especially when you think of the Nader dilemma in 2000.) In the 2004 Iowa Caucus, for example, only John Kerry, John Edwards, and Howard Dean earned national delegates to the convention.
Okay, so, what does this mean for 2008? Well, the Des Moines Register poll revealed:
Barack Obama - 28%
Hillary Clinton - 25%
John Edwards - 23%
No one else above 9%
Say that ends up being the numbers for the Iowa Caucus itself. Those first three numbers mean that 76% of voters have chosen one of the big three, and 24% have not. Therefore, 24% of the vote is still available to be divvied up among the top 3 candidates!
Therefore, second choice is hugely important in the Iowa Caucus. The question is: Who of the Big Three is the most popular second choice of those who are voting for someone not in the top tier? Who of the top 3 has the most support beyond those who are already planning on voting for them?
This will be examined throughout the month, but I think you at least know this: It's not Hillary Clinton.
(Note: You can read more on the Iowa Caucus all month at Presidential Politics for America.)