Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Independents and the Iowa Caucus

From WFMY News, CBS in Greensboro NC

In recent days, lots of attention has been directed towards the Iowa caucus. At nearly 1,000 miles away, North Carolinians may be wondering why this is important to them. WFMY News 2 spoke with Dr. Omar Ali, Independent Political Analyst and Historian at UNC Greensboro to bring you more information.

WFMY: Why do we, here in the Triad and across the country, need to care about the Iowa Caucus?

Dr. Ali: In 2008, 13% of GOP voters self-identified as independent which translated into about 16,000 Iowa voters participating in the GOP caucuses as independents. On the Democratic side, about 20% self-identified as independent which translated into about 50,000 voters. What this means is that In 2008, independents made a very strong statement in Iowa when 75% of them chose to vote in the Democratic caucuses. Given that there isn't a competitive Democratic caucus this year, the voter turnout among independents will give some indication of how compelling voters find the GOP case against Obama and his administration.

WFMY: How does money factor into early primaries (especially this year when so many states moved their caucuses/primaries so early)?

Dr. Ali: Money is always a factor. Having more money has helped candidates such as Romney who had a relatively late start in Iowa this go-around make a strong showing in the polls. Money can buy organizations, but what money doesn't do is necessarily win the caucuses. Iowans are independent-thinking and are looking for candidates who will meaningfully address the state of our economy, part of which means having a president who can equally address the partisan gridlock of Congress. Each state legislature will offer its own explanation as to why they moved things up. What we do know is that moving things up certainly favors those with cash in hand.

WFMY: Is Iowa (or any early states) really a good representation of voters in the US?

Dr. Ali: Obama and his team will be watching closely, not just to see who wins and places but to see what, if anything, they can learn about the movement of independents. There are strong progressive voices and leaders in the independent movement - like Jackie Salit, leader of - and the Obama people may find that they want to make an alliance with that wing of the independent movement so that it can influence the direction of independents in the general election. And, yes, Iowa is overwhelmingly white (and largely evangelical) but it's also the case that in terms of the "independent vote" (which is the most undecided group of voters) Iowa could project more broadly. The undecideds, as you know, are what the Republican candidates are most concerned with.

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