Live-Blogging an Iowa Caucus

6:15 pm Iowa time: I'm at a Democratic caucus at the Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. There are several caucuses in the building. The one I'm at right now is taking place in the school auditorium.

There are four seating sections, arranged like those in movie theaters, with rows of seats from right to left. Hillary supporters are in the front center section, Obama's section is to the right of her section and Edwards' supporters are to the left. Further back is a Richardson section. There's also a Biden section -- I'm not sure where his seats are but his staffers are on the far right. There's two chairs on the stage, and someone is putting a big Obama 08 on them. I'll add pictures later.

Obama's section is fairly full. It's a very diverse group with lots of minorities. The Edwards supporters to my left are very sure of who they are voting for.

Please let me know in the comments if there's something special you're curious about. Otherwise, I'll just live-blog. By the way, I'm doing this reporting-style -- which means neutrally.

We're starting now, timed updates and after-thoughts below.

Update: 6:45 pm: The caucus captain just made his first announcment. If anyone has platform resolutions, they are to bring them to the front.

There are some toddlers here and some teens. It's filling up fast. The supporters have signs with their candidates names and many are

standing, waving them towards the back of the room (I guess so new people entering know where to sit.) I'm taking lots of pictures which I'll post later. (Update: some of them are here.)

Update 6:52 pm: It's really loud in here now. Almost all the seats are taken. The campaign leaders are shouting...it's amazing that no one brought a bullhorn. Call to order will be in 5 minutes.

Update: 7:00 pm. It's started. The caucus leader is a male, around 40, who has done this before. He announces the agenda: Instead of candidate speeches, there are letters people can read.

They now elect a permanent chair. It takes 30 seconds. The caucus head then nominates someone secretary. Everyone seconds her nomination and they vote unanimously.

Now they will get to the fun part and determine the threshold. The caucus leader reads a statement that says there will be no discrimination and affirmative action is the rule.

Now they will divide into preference groups. Kucinich supporters ask where they go. The caucus leader tells them behind Richardson. He asks if anyone is for Dodd. No one answers.

The uncommitted are told to go to the back. Each preference group has to elect a representative. The rep will count the numbers in their group and then report the number to the caucus chief. Then they will see who meets the 15% threshold. A half hour is allotted. They vote on whether to extend the time "if needed." Overwhelmingly, they vote no. A half hour it is. The people in the back are screaming they can't hear.

The delegates will be awarded after determining who is viable. Then they will elect delegates to the county convention, elect delegates to committees, elect some more people to other things, discuss planks, take up new business and adjourn.

Update 7:12 pm: Clinton has 99. They are screaming. I haven't heard Obama's number yet. Back soon.

Update: First count: Hillary 99, Edwards 81, Obama 175! These are preliminary. Kucinich had 5. Biden 23. The captain next to me says Richardson is not viable.

494 is the total. Viability number is 75. Edwards made it. If their candidate doesn't have it, they get to join another group.

Biden's people are not moving. He's told his group to stand firm till the third count. Obama's people brought them a box of chocolates that they are waving around but no one's going. Richardson's people are going to Edwards!

Announcement: 10 minutes left. Every time a group of supporters from a non-viable candidate goes to one of the majors, there's an ear-splitting scream from that section.

Update: Biden just went to Obama en masse. A young woman just walks up to Hillary's section asking if someone could give her info on Hillary because she was Richardson and doesn't want to go to Edwards like the others.

Update 7:35 pm: There's major screaming. These people are rocking out. Edwards just scored the rest of Richardson's supporters. Hillary didn't seem to gain any from anyone. Looks like it will be Obama followed by Edwards. They are doing the final count now. No more switching allowed. Hillary's at 107. Edwards is 132.

7:41 pm: Final tally: Obama wins, with 213. Edwards second, with 132. Hillary third, with 107. Obama gets 4 delegates, Hillary and Edwards get two each. That's a wrap. I'll have more later from the convention center, including thoughts on this caucus group. This is definitely an urban, progressive group. Check back for photos.

Update: As we walked into the convention center, Wolf Blitzer called it for Obama. It was very quiet and deserted. Certainly no swarm of 2,500 journalists. We left and went back to the hotel where Hillary was about to give her speech.

The hotel was packed with several hundred Hillary folks. The only food (and we were starving by this time) was chips -- tortilla and potato.

I've got an early flight home in the morning. It's been a crazy few days, in no small part due to the insanely cold weather. But, I have to say, against all odds, I like Iowa. It's not all farmhouses. The caucus I attended could easily have been in Denver. It was diverse in age and race. There were hippies and gays and working people and families with toddlers. They were friendly, spirited folks who care about our government.

One of my favorite responses to people who complain about our government without offering aany concrete solutions is "We get the Government we elect." These Iowans showed up on a cold winter night to register their beliefs and be counted. They did their part and their vote deserves our respect. Now it's our turn.

< Bye, Bye Biden | The Speeches: Hillary,. Obama and Huckabee >
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  • Display: Sort:
    Who can tell us... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by bluetothebone on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:58:05 PM EST
    if it's possible or likely that the Repubs are running in people to tip the race to anyone in particular? What are the rules for attending the caucus? Is it open to allowing Repubs to vote in Dem caucuses as they do in Texas? (Sorry in advance for my ignorance.)

    Anyone who is a legal resident of (none / 0) (#23)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 10:19:44 PM EST
    U.S., residing in Iowa, and will be 18 by election day in Nov. 08 is elegible to register Dem. at the door of the caucus.  

    Please estimate the number of people (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:27:59 PM EST
    in the groups of Obama, Edwards, and Clinton.  Also, please estimate the demographic of Clinton's group.  Thanks.

    the room is still filling up. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:36:02 PM EST
    I'll do numbers and composition when we get underway at 7. Till then, it could change.

    Sounds unfair (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:28:16 PM EST
    Clinton does not get a section?

    BTW. I am going to be updating my post below until the Entrance Polls come out when I will post a new post.

    Expected at 7:30 CST.

    Hillary has the biggest section (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:34:15 PM EST
    front and center.

    Ah (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:39:51 PM EST
    No food? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:43:08 PM EST
    What's a caucus without snacks?

    there's only one carton (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:47:37 PM EST
    of bottled water and one dish of cookies that I can see. I'll grab a pic.

    Demo? (none / 0) (#8)
    by BDB on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:53:00 PM EST
    How old are the voters?  Gender?

    Could you tell if there were a lot of independents and Republicans registering as Dems?

    Thanks for covering it, this is great!

    and where's the registration table set up? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:55:15 PM EST
    In the hall, inside the door, up in front?

    Roosevelt (none / 0) (#9)
    by brat on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:54:36 PM EST
    Should be a very interesting crowd. Roosevelt High School is in the "OLD" money section of Des Moines. It's also the High School that was involved with "Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District."

    Tinker v Des Moines (none / 0) (#11)
    by BDB on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:57:45 PM EST
    So I'm guessing not an area where people are shy about expressing their political beliefs.

    Tinker v. Des Moines (none / 0) (#14)
    by brat on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:04:10 PM EST
    Nope, it's home to the "Farms not Arms" crowd. It should be a terrific evening for folks who care about progressive politics.

    Usually dont post - (none / 0) (#12)
    by Judith on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 06:59:55 PM EST
    Thank you for the opportunity to "listen in". If I didnt want Hillary to win before, I sure do now with all the media ganging up going on.  They are scared to death that a Hillary WH will dismiss them (as well it should).  I would be curious if you hear of any backlash to her benefit as a result of how she has been treated.
    Thank you.

    Appropriately Seated (none / 0) (#13)
    by BDB on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:02:21 PM EST
    Hillary supporters are in the front center section, Obama's section is to the right of her section and Edwards' supporters are to the left. Further back is a Richardson section.

    As my boyfriend pointed out, this sounds about right.

    Just made it! (none / 0) (#15)
    by Aaron on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:06:42 PM EST
    My brother loves to cut it close, he just made it in the door of the church where he is caucusing with six minutes to spare.  He said they were so many cars parked around the place that he had to park a half a mile away.

    I'm on the phone with him going RUN MOTHER F-er RUN!!!  

    Obama 175 (none / 0) (#16)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:17:44 PM EST
    How many delegates will this caucus get?  Don't they get differing numbers of delegates?

    Hey JEM (none / 0) (#17)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:36:55 PM EST
    You haven't seen Roy Romer running around there have you?  I could swear I just saw him on C-SPAN.

    Wow! (none / 0) (#18)
    by barryluda on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:50:40 PM EST
    OK, TalkLeft is now officially my favorite blog.  What a breathtaking, first hand account.

    Thanks and nice work Jeralyn!


    wow back and thank you (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 08:41:43 PM EST
    you made my night!

    More results (none / 0) (#20)
    by mallison on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 07:59:14 PM EST
    My parents who live north west of Des Moines about 40 minutes just finished caucusing and said their precinct vote, there was only one, went to Edwards.  Apparently it took 50%+1 to get the vote.

    nail biting (none / 0) (#21)
    by Judith on Thu Jan 03, 2008 at 08:04:13 PM EST
    Ny Times showing Edwards ahead overall...this is interesting.  If he wins his voice will have to be heard more and I think that would be great.

    Take care everybody - Thank you for the help Jeralyn.