What to know about the first votes of the 2020 presidential election.


What’s A Caucus?

  • Oxford Definition: A private meeting of the leaders or representatives of a political party, previous to an election or to a general meeting of the party, to select candidates for office …
  • Oxford says its origins are “obscure” but some say it was a Native American term for a meeting of tribal leaders.
  • Word dates back to 1700s in Boston, but caucuses have been used in America since at least the 1800s.

Caucus 101:

  • Caucuses vs. Primary Elections: One big difference? Who runs the operation: primaries are run by the individual states (often like general elections with secret ballots), whereas caucuses are run by the parties.
  • 2020: Three states (Iowa, Nevada, Wyoming) & four U.S. territories (Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa) will hold caucuses this year.

About The Iowa Caucuses:

  • Voters registered with a party gather at 1,600+ precincts at 7pm.
  • Democrats: Gather in groups based on the candidate they support – only candidates that get at least 15% get awarded delegates. Whoever gets the most delegates is the winner.
  • Republicans: After 3-5 min. speeches in support of each candidate, they votes via paper. Whoever gets the most votes is the winner.

Why Does Iowa Matter?

  • It’s first so it provides the first look at how real voters (albeit the most politically active ones) will *actually* vote (not polls about their opinions).
  • For Democrats in particular, whoever wins in Iowa tends to go on to secure the Dem pres. nomination. Ex: 6 of the party’s last 10 nominees won in Iowa.
  • Winning Iowa can be game-changer for lesser known candidates (Jimmy Carter in 1976; Barack Obama in 2008).

BIG PICTURE: Iowa is not necessarily a predictor for November's winner (or loser). Since Iowa held the first caucuses in 1972, only three winners (2 Democrats & 1 Republican) went on to win the presidency.

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