January 14, 2008

STL Goes to Washington: Viability & the Second-Choice

Posted in Politics tagged , , , , at 4:26 pm by Katelyn

In an effort to show my support for uniting the people no matter what side of the aisle, I will say this: Republicans sure know how to make a clear and simple caucus process! I am going to briefly discuss the Democrats’ caucusing process and more specifically, the viability threshold and the second-choice candidate.

At a democratic caucus, a candidate’s supporters must make up at least 15% of that precinct’s caucus-goers. If the candidate does not meet that 15% threshold, he/she is considered not viable. Supporters can then either attempt to attract more supporters in order for the candidate to become viable, they can leave, or they can join another group – choosing their second-choice candidate.

Republicans do not have this rule in their caucuses. Everyone chooses by secret ballot and there is just one round of voting.

With the opportunity for supporters of a non-viable candidate to then choose a second-choice candidate to support, the caucus becomes a strategy for those in the lead. Most will agree that a candidate’s biggest supporter at a caucus is the precinct captain and that it is in the candidate’s best interest to arm the captain with a strategy for winning over the second-choice votes.

As an example, for the Iowa caucus, Clinton’s camp gave local precinct captains cards that outlined arguments targeted to supporters of each of the candidates who might be eliminated. They advised captains to “put yourself in their shoes” and imagine what it would feel like to have your first-choice eliminated from the caucus. Then they were to pitch a positive message.

Obama’s campaign provided its local precinct captains with lists of likely caucus-goers who had named Obama as a 2nd choice candidate. They were to then make a face-to-face pitch for their vote as second-choice.

In the case of the democratic caucus, being nice and being positive is a strategy that can win the votes of those who must realign, and it has served well for many candidates over the years.

There it is in a nutshell: the craziness of the democratic caucus, what it means to be a viable candidate, and how candidates can win the votes of those whose candidate was eliminated.

~ DC


1 Comment »

  1. LA said,

    It’s a good thing a lot of states hold primaries instead of caucuses– it seems overly complicated.

    I found this piece condeming the caucus process by Christopher Hitchens on Slate:


    It’s a little thick, but there are some related stories listed at the end of the article that might be more reader-friendly.

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