Experiences of a First-Time Caucuser


I like to think I made a difference last week in the future of the country’s leadership.
I headed to Eisenhower Elementary School, proceeded to the gym and skimmed any sign of John Edwards.


What led me here were reasons, I imagine, were the same as what led the 60 percent of first-time caucus-goers to participate in the political process. The War in Iraq. Rising Healthcare Costs. Not to mention the disenchantment with the current leadership’s lack of commitment and compassion for working Americans on a host of other issues.


At Eisenhower I immediately met a young woman named Jill hanging up Edwards signs. She was the lone volunteer for the campaign, but was elated about being part of the caucus.
“It’s nice to meet you. I don’t remember talking to you before,” she said.



I told her my mom volunteered for Hillary’s campaign, and so our house was inundated with calls and mailings from her campaign and a few from Obama’s. We even had a Hillary sign in the front yard. But despite all that, my household is one with varying opinions, and it was perhaps a good thing I wasn’t on Jill’s calling list.


I had heard a couple debates on the radio and saw a few on TV, as well as had the fortune of listening to most of the Democratic candidates up close. I decided Edwards was the best candidate for me.


I helped Jill set up stickers and lay out John Edwards pamphlets on the table when an elderly couple arrived, with the man donned what can best be described as Uncle Sam minus the beard and long hat. The husband and wife were pros at caucusing. They bought plates of cookies and some decorative flags they hung next to Jill’s signs. We might as might as well have been decked out for the 4th of July.



More people arrived as I saw volunteers putting the finishing touches on the Obama and Clinton tables in their corners of the gym.


The precinct chairwoman told me they were expecting about 250 to 300 people in one half of the gym. But that estimate seemed low with the line forming outside.



Before entering the gym, caucus-goers had to register to vote. So I left the room and got to the back of the line. An Obama volunteer gave me a registration form and, upon seeing my Edwards sticker on my coat, asked if I wanted a “second-candidate sticker.” I took it and put the Obama sticker in my pocket.


 When 7 p.m. approached, each corner of the room started a head count. Jill was the official counter for the Edwards campaign, which by now had a nice crowd of supporters of all ages sitting patiently, reading campaign literature or conversing among each other.



After the first count, the precinct chairwoman asked for the numbers.
There were 363 people in the room, and each candidate needed 15 percent of the vote to be considered viable. Obama, Hillary and Edwards reached viability without a problem.


The candidates who were no longer viable were asked to consider those who were before another head count was done. Some of the Dodd, Richardson and Biden supporters came to the Edwards corner without too much convincing. The hardest was convincing the undecided ones who were torn between Edwards and Obama.


Jill excitedly explained to some that she could see why they supported Obama, but that the thinking is that he could be Edwards’ running mate, giving Obama at least 4 years experience before he makes it to the White House.


More head counts. About 5 or 6 counts later, we had 70 people in the Edwards corner. That number was calculated following a complex formula in the caucus handbook and rounded up, resulting in 2 delegates for Edwards.


Technically, Obama, Hillary and Edwards, in that order, won the popular vote at the gym in Eisenhower. In terms of delegates, Obama won with 4 delegates and Hillary and Edwards tied with 2. But it was good enough to help give Edwards a second-place finish. We were all excited to know we played a small but important part in shaping the rest of the Democratic race in coming weeks. Now it’s up to the other states to do their part.

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