Caucus 2012 voter's guide: Barack Obama


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The Republican caucus has earned the vast majority of attention this caucus season, but the Democrats will caucus next January as well.

And though President Obama will be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee in the 2012 election, Iowa Democrats are looking to increase caucus turnout.

"… This is our 2012 campaign kickoff," said Sam Roecker, the communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party. "… Democratic involvement will lead to victories."

There are more than 1,700 precincts across Iowa, all of which will host Democratic caucuses in which only registered Democrats are permitted to participate.

However, organizing and mobilizing potential caucus-goers with an incumbent president is a tall order, Roecker said.

"We have a full-time caucus director," he said. "We have to find locations in all precincts. We have been doing training, talking to county parties, and making sure they have what they need."

In addition, the Iowa Democratic Party recently unveiled a new iPhone application to help interested Democrats find a caucus location.

However, Harvard government Professor Thomas Patterson said, based on precedent of past party-supported incumbent candidates, the Democratic Party can not expect a large number of participants on caucus day.

"Historically, we're talking about low turnout," he said. "These contests are held, but not many show up."

In his second bid for the White House, Obama has been challenged in his own party. Lesser-known Democratic candidates, such as Randall Terry and Democratic-independent convert Harry Braun, have both campaigned in Iowa. However, they will not caucus in Iowa.

"The way ours works is you have to have 15 percent of the people in the caucus who want to affiliate with you," said Sue Dvorsky, the Iowa Democratic Party head. "You have to be able to get your supporters to the thousands of caucus sites across the state. At this point, no one has risen out of the Democratic Party to challenge the president."

In addition to Obama being uncontested in the 2012 Iowa Democratic caucuses, Patterson said, there are other key differences between Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential bids.

"It's one thing to be a successful candidate, as Obama was," he said. "There was an enormous energy behind the Obama campaign in 2008, persuading swing voters and the like. As president, he's presiding over an economy that's kind of stumbling along. It's very hard to maintain through the election all the energy that went into the first one."

Iowa Democrats are looking to do more than officially select President Obama as their 2012 presidential nominee. Roecker said Democrats would like to expand their hold on the U.S. Senate and take control of the U.S. House in 2012.

"We've got people very excited about organizing for the Congressional election," Dvorsky said. "… It's more than just the presidential [race]."

Additionally, Roecker said anyone planning to run as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., will throw her or his hat into the ring on caucus night. Individuals wishing to serve on precinct committees will also be elected on Jan. 3.

Whether or not an individual wishes to run as a delegate or serve on a precinct committee, Roeker said, all Democrats should attend a caucus.

"It's a unique process," he said. "It's something you don't see in every state. It's really a neat opportunity to stand in a ring with people who share your political beliefs."

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