Using the GOP’s Iowa Caucus to Warm Up the Black Vote

Using the GOP’s Iowa Caucus to Warm Up the Black Vote

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The fact that Mitt Romney managed to, well … technically edge out Rick Santorum and secure a dramatic “photo finish” win by 8 votes is a very illustrative lesson of the electoral process. Certainly, if Democrats are smart enough they could use this win as part of its ground campaign to encourage its base, including African Americans, to go out and vote.

In terms of the enthusiasm gap we keep hearing about, they’ll need all the help they can get on that.

Santorum won 30,007 votes to Romney’s winning 30,015 votes, which statistically amounts to a tie at 25 percent each, Iowa Republican party chairman Matt Strawn announced Wednesday.

In the end, Ron Paul, who ran a very aggressive campaign in Iowa, galvanized the youth vote and instead of pulling the upset many (including me) predicted, he came in third with  21% of the votes (26,219).

Newt Gingrich came in 4th with 13% (16,251); Rick Perry was 5th with 10% (12,604); and Michele Bachmann rounded off 6th place with 5% (6,073); while Jon Huntsman, who didn’t bother campaigning in the Buckeye state at all managed to get 5%  of the votes(745).

It is a very impactful testament to the concept of “Your Vote Matters” and could be used in government and civics classes from elementary school to college. It could possibly influence all those folks who say they don’t bother voting because they don’t think their vote counts. Never mind trying to explain that the Iowa caucus goers don’t really select delegates for the general election  directly, but rather the delegates that go on to the county and state conventions who actually do. Dumbed down in its simplest context, 8 votes is a heck of an instructive and powerful statement.

A 2006 Pew Research Center poll on voting revealed that “non-voters are politically estranged: They are the least interested in local politics… and the most likely to say voting doesn’t change things.”

It concluded that 31% of Blacks are regular voters compared to 37% of whites, and 24% of Hispanics. While the reasons people give time to vote vary – too busy; not interested in politics; can’t physically get to the polls; don’t like the candidates; too long lines or forgetting – a sizeable number who don’t vote say it is because voting doesn’t matter.

The Iowa caucus results are an updated reminder of voting’s significance even more so than the 2000 presidential general elections where the outcome nearly tinkered on the counting of a few hundred thousand ballots with hanging chads.  That result came out of Florida’s flawed manual voting booths before the US Supreme Court stepped in and ordered the counting stopped, de facto declaring George W. Bush the victor over Al Gore. Bush won by 300 votes and 180,000 ballots remained uncounted due to human error, mechanical glitches and voters who abstained from that race or deliberately sabotaged their ballots in protest, voting data showed.

In today’s digital era of social media use, it is clear that people who would ordinarily be disconnected from politics and the election process are accessible more so than before.  More than the overcrowded race and the enthusiasm among those eager to get rid of the president, the active usage of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to connect more people to politics and the electoral process could have been an active factor in this record attendance at the Iowa caucus.  We may have seen a strong example of how online discourse becomes offline activity.

CNN estimated that 120,000-125,000 caucus-goers turned out on Tuesday night – compared to the 119,000 that turned out in 2008.

Romney’s fragile victory could have a critical utility in the Democrat’s grassroots effort to get out the vote.  It is undisputed that the president would need to energize his base and get them to the polls to secure victory.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the president wasn’t particularly focused on the Iowa caucuses.  But, with an outcome like this, he may want to pay close attention.

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