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Iowa Caucuses provide learning experience

February 5, 2016

Monday evening held a few surprises as the results for the 2016 Iowa Caucuses were tallied. On the Democratic side, predicted winner Hillary Clinton defeated counterpart Bernie Sanders by a slim .3% margin, with some news outlets labeling Sanders’ performance as a win for his campaign.

The night also proved to be historic for the GOP as over 180,000 Republicans caucused, shattering the 2012 record of 121,503. The polls leading up to the caucuses were tight, with some predicting a win for Ted Cruz and some predicting Donald trump coming out on top. In the end, Cruz edged out Trump by just over 3%. For Robin Johnson, a lecturer in the political science department and campaign consultant, Cruz’s victory came down to organization. While Trump relied on large-scale events that attracted tens of thousands of Iowans, Johnson said, “Cruz visited all 99 Iowa counties, and that’s really what did it for him.”

Johnson and students from his Integrated Studies Politics and Government in the Midwest course attended a caucus in Burlington, Iowa to observe grassroots democracy in action. “I wanted students to see how caucuses work and to directly experience the kickoff of the campaign to elect our next president. Caucuses are different from primaries, and students saw how average people spoke without talking points about the candidates they supported. And, in the case of the Democrats, they got to see how people actually stood up for candidates publicly and not through secret ballots as in the Republican caucus and in primary elections.”

Since parties caucus separately, students had the option to observe either the Republican or Democratic caucus. Senior Kate Duffy, who primarily observed the Republican caucus, noted the impression her first caucus experience made. “There were a couple of presenters who stuck out to me, mainly the presenters who weren’t prepared to speak and didn’t plan on speaking that night, but ended up doing so. I thought it was cool to see ‘regular’ people getting up and speaking from the heart.”

During this caucus, members of the community, including a priest who donned his priestly vestments, presented their views of candidates in an effort to sway the undecided. Religion played a key role in most individuals’ speeches about candidates, which proved to be the backbone of Cruz’s success in the state.

“The fact that it was a historical night, with record Republican turnout and the closest Democratic race in history, was icing on the cake.”

Now the candidates are off to the state of New Hampshire, which holds its primary on February 20.

Julianna Graf/Anthony Howe
Editor in Chief/Copy Editor

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