To many, it strains credulity that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was really serious about actually becoming the nominee until recently, especially since his campaign has done next to none of the usual things a campaign does to collect delegates. In New Hampshire, we learn that it couldn't even file a full slate. In Iowa, he is opening his first field office this week. A field office, to the uninitiated, is the locus of organizing. And if you paid attention to the 2008 Democratic caucuses, in Iowa you'd think that organizing was the sine qua non for obtaining a presidential nomination.
But that lesson doesn't apply to Republicans. The Iowa caucuses are really, for Republicans, beauty contests -- or "firehouse primaries." How do you participate? You go to your caucus site, get a piece of paper, write in your candidate's name, turn it in, and wait for the results. That's... primary-ish. Democrats jump through hoops of fire. They have to publicly identify themselves as members of preference groups...which have to reach a threshold called "viability"...they have to listen as other people make pleas against their preferred candidate...stay on location for an hour or longer...and that's just the start.
Republicans need to get voters to the polls, but if there's an organic groundswell for someone else...and so long as voters know where their caucus location is, organization, as in field directors, buses, door-knockers, phone bankers -- aren't needed. Most older voters know where their caucus sites are, because they don't change. (Older voters might need help going to the polls, but there are statewide party arrangements for that. It does help when a candidate identifies an older voter and can provide transportation him or herself.) For the rest of Iowa Republicans, they can find their precinct online.
Who's going to win? Don't be foolish and predict anything until a week or so before the caucuses... the headlines in Iowa, the talk on radio ... the environment.. will determine quite a bit.
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