The Democrats caucus just like the Republicans. People gather at various approved sites and spend a few hours publicly debating the various candidates. When everyone finishes their push for their favorite candidate, they take a vote. Usually if a candidate does not receive a certain percentage of the total participating, then that candidate is removed from the discussion and those supporters are free to go home or move to one of the other candidates. The final score is reported to the State Committees where delegates are assigned to the various candidates.
The Democrats have an open, public vote. Everyone in attendance knows how each person voted. The Republican vote is done with a secret ballot. If an attendee did not publicly speak on behalf of their candidate, no one will know who they supported.
Many of the attendees are not sure who they will support when they arrive at the caucus. I’m sure they are between two or three candidates. I doubt they enter with no preference of whom to support. What I’m saying is they are willing to be convinced to change their minds at the caucus based on the arguments of their neighbors during the evening.
This year, we may be looking at a major change in the attitude of the electorate. We might be seeing the changing of the guard. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton represents the “establishment” or the party insider. She is challenges by Bernie Sanders, a professed “Socialist.” Sanders has grown in strength through the campaign. His candidacy is a challenge to the party pros. Bernie has tapped into new participants that have not been politically active in the past. If he is able to actually get these new people out on a cold Iowa night to spend a few hours to defeat the established candidate, then the whole race will change.
Something very similar is happening over on the Republican side. The GOP has twelve candidates fighting for the caucus votes. Here, we have the top two who are considered “mavericks” by the professional politicians. The front-runner, Donald Trump, is a candidate who crosses across all the political spectrum in his philosophy. Oddly, Trump has support from conservatives and liberals alike. Hated by the political professionals, Trump draws no financial support from them so he is completely uncontrollable. Ted Cruz, who is close on the heels of Trump, is also a political outsider. Cruz is a first term Senator from Texas, and has never been “one of the boys.” Cruz has been a thorn in the side of the party leaders since he arrived on Capitol Hill.
The “establishment” candidates on the Republican side are mired in support that is in the single digits. Their campaigns have not caught fire with the Iowa voters.
Iowa has provided surprises in the past. Just four years ago, Rick Santorum won the caucus after entering the night with 2% support in the polls. The questions for this year is: Does Donald Trump have a deep enough organization to deliver his supporters to the caucus meetings? Is Ted Cruz quietly working with a better organization? Is there another candidate who will rise to the top?
It appears there is a revolution going on in America. The outcome tonight just might verify that it is real.