Posted: January 4, 2008 5:56 PM
First-timers Boost Iowa Parties to Record Caucus Turnout
Iowans shrugged off single-digit temperatures Thursday to amass more than 300,000 caucus-goers for the first time in the nominating contests.
Both parties obliterated turnout records with Democrats nearly doubling their last caucus count.
About 234,000 Democrats — a record 56 percent of whom were first-timers — caucused Thursday night, shattering the previous mark of 124,000 in 2004, Politico reported. The GOP drew about 114,000 caucus-goers, compared to 87,666 participants in 2000, their last contested caucus.
Some Iowans waited outside in chilly temperatures before they could get into their precincts to caucus. There were no seats and little standing room for Republican caucus-goers at the Berg Middle School precinct, Norman McDonald, of rural Jasper County, told the Des Moines Register.
“I left without voting because the crowd was too large,” he said. “I’m 80
years old and I couldn’t stand up for as long as it was going to take.”
About 425 Democrats at Monroe Elementary School in Des Moines had to wait
for Republicans to finish caucusing before they could squeeze into the gymnasium, which is meant to hold about 200 people, the Register reported.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s defeat of his Democratic opponents was due, in part, to his campaign’s ability to mobilize caucus-goers in Iowa’s largest urban areas. The first-term senator cruised to a large margin of victory in Des Moines, Davenport and Cedar Rapids, according to New York Times data.
Obama also dominated with voters concerned about the war in Iraq, the economy and health care, according to a poll of 2,178 voters as they entered Democratic caucuses across Iowa.
On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s campaign garnered the most support among all age groups, most notably the 71 percent of voters 45 years or older.
He commanded the support of nearly half the 60 percent of people attending a Republican caucus who identified themselves as a born-again or evangelical Christian.
On the issues, Huckabee pulled in the most supporters who declared one of four things their most important subject in this election: immigration, the Iraq war, the economy and terrorism.