Always bet on the candidate whose supporters have been to caucus before.
People always make the mistake of assuming that you can handicap caucuses the way you handicap actual elections. (Keep that in mind when you’re reading the polls.)
Compared to caucuses, elections are simple. A voter shows up at the polling place between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm (roughly), checks in, votes, and leaves. No problem. It takes about ten minutes. Got a morning meeting? Swing by the polling place at lunch. Or after work. Or just vote absentee. For a first-time voter, it’s pretty user-friendly.
Caucuses are a meeting at a specific time at a specific location. If you have a conflict, you’re out. Can’t find the place? Running late? There are no do-overs. No babysitter to watch the kids? Sorry. (If you or your spouse has to stay home, you’ve just cut your voting power in half.) To complicate things, caucuses can take a couple hours. There are bylaws and procedures and the official reading of the legalese by the person who doesn’t really qualify as a speed reader. Sound like fun?
So here’ s a typical experience for a first-time caucus-goer:
You’re instructed by your favorite campaign to go to some high school (where you’ve never been) and told to get there by 7 pm.
(This is Iowa in January: It’s dark; it’s cold.)
As 6:50 rolls around, you’re still trying to find the place.
(Doesn’t a beer sound good right about now?)
By 6:55 you’re trying to determine if it’s okay to park in the “faculty lot.”
(You could watch the results come in from that friendly-looking pub you passed a half-mile back.)
By 6:58 you run across your first locked door. Being a typical high school, this thing is about a quarter-mile in circumference and the faculty lot is clearly on the wrong side of the building.
Finally you find a poorly-lit side door. You enter, but realize that you now have to find the “multi-purpose room.” It’s 7:08.
(Good Lord… you’re not going to get out of this place until 9:oo pm tonight. By then the pub is either going to be packed and you’ll never get a seat.)
You enter the “multi-purpose room.” Do you know which precinct you’re in? They’ve already started… good luck finding your table.
(No one has seen you yet. You could probably slip out of here. In fact, no one really knows you told that campaign volunteer that you’d show up. Besides, your vote doesn’t really count. They’re not even going to miss you. And it might be even MORE important to make sure you get a good seat at that pub (for your candidate’s cheering section, of course.))
So, as I was saying… always bet on the candidate whose supporters have been to caucus before.