What a real caucus is like

CLIVE, Iowa–“Now fill out those purple pieces of paper…,” Connie Schmett, temporary chairman of the caucus held at Valley High School here, told the standing-room-only auditorium of Republicans. “And if you don’t spell ‘Santorum’ right, don’t worry.  We know who you meant.”
Thirty minutes after Iowa Republicans commenced the quadrennial process of selecting a nominee for President, votes had begun to be counted at the 1800-plus polling stations in the Hawkeye State. Exit polls had said that the “top three” GOP contenders would be Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum, with no clue yet as to who was first, second or third.

Here in Clive, a suburb of Des Moines, there was no hint of whether any of the above would be the “top three.”  Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for example, had surprising support at the Valley High caucus.  Spike Jones, a retiree who has had five children go through Valley High, told us he was for Perry “because I like his values and he comes from a good family.”  Steve Ogden, a self-described Christian conservative, said his worry about activist judges “making law from the bench”  led him to volunteer for “the one candidate who has addressed the issue of activist judges, Newt Gingrich.”

After an hour, the results are finally announced to a hushed hall:  Mitt Romney 141, Newt Gingrich 52, Rick Santorum 51, Ron Paul 46, Rick Perry 30, Michele Bachmann 14 and Jon Huntsman 1.
The election of Clive’s six delegates to the county convention, the next step in the selection of the eventual Iowa delegation to the GOP national convention, is about to begin.  But at this point, most of the participants move on.  Within minutes, only 17 people are left in the auditorium to continue the business of electing county convention delegates.  The straw vote is over.