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Rick Perry and the Iowa Caucus 2012
Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it. Abraham Lincoln
The Iowa caucuses have come and gone and are now part of the political history we will revisit in 2016. I went to Iowa to volunteer for Rick Perry’s effort in seeking the presidential nomination. My stay was short, flying in on January 1st and departing on January 4th, which was just enough time to make phone calls to get out the vote and to be a surrogate on January 3rd. A surrogate represents a candidate at a caucus persuading the 50% or so of caucus goers who were supposedly undecided. I personally believe that in spite of what the media kept reporting, voters had indeed made up their minds. The results prove it.
It was announced at the Surrogate Meeting on January 3rd that the ‘Golden Circle’ had all the surrogates necessary. Of the 1,774 Iowa precincts, the ‘Golden Circle’ is the precincts in a 100 mile radius around Des Moines. The caucus I was given was 64 miles away at a church in Oskaloosa City, an hour and 15 minutes from Des Moines. A passionate Perry supporter from Maryland, Kathleen Crosby, was the assigned driver. We were also asked to put out Perry posters and to give out the informational handouts on Perry.
We were greeted by the temporary precinct chairman Nor Van Egmond who was helpful and friendly. I was struck by the large empty room and the amount of chairs already set up. The ballots were neatly placed on tables ready for its owner. As it turned out additional chairs had to be added to accommodate all the people pouring in. I guess there were just over 200 people in attendance. Later I found out that there had been a large turnout of 122,255 voters throughout the state. There are 3,046,355 people in the state, so the percentage of those who actually came out to vote was very low.
I thought 7 pm would never come as I nervously waited my turn to go to the front and give my speech about Perry. As I looked at the packed room I hoped that I would be able to persuade some if not all to vote for Perry. Wishing… I introduced myself and said how honored I was to be there to witness this extraordinary Iowa caucus which leads the nation into the voting season. It is always hard to recall all that you say, but I do remember mentioning his proven record in Texas on job creation, tort reform, and his pro life stance. I went on to say that in spite of what the media says, Perry is a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms and his knowledge of the 10th Amendment is superb. I firmly told the crowd that we had experienced the Texas wildfires and the results of Hurricane Rita so Perry was well prepared to handle national catastrophes. I mentioned again that in spite of what the media reports, Perry is loved in Texas, otherwise why has he been reelected again and again as the Texas governor. Waving arms signaled that I had run out of time…my 3 minutes were up. I was given rousing applause, and I felt relieved that perhaps I had won over some votes. The Perry supporters all wanted an opportunity to speak to me and give their story on Perry and one even hugged me. So the Perry supporters are great and smart people!
The other candidates that were represented were Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. All were cordial to me. After the ballots were collected in a large basket, we were taken to a back room to count them by a caucus representative. We all helped with the counting of the ballots but it was my suggestion that all ballots be placed in stacks per candidate, agreed, the counting begun. I will forever remember the results, Santorum 57, Romney 40, Paul 31, Perry 27, Gingrich 15, Bachmann 7, and Huntsman 2. There were 179 who voted out of the 180 who were registered to vote. The process is very transparent and easy to follow. I found the count to be correct and valid.
Because I have been following Perry’s presidential campaign from the beginning, I felt I knew what to expect. I did not believe that Perry would come in first, even though that was what I so wanted. I thought he would come in third or at least fourth as John McCain had come in fourth in 2008 and won the Republican nomination. The precinct I was at gave me hope for at least a fourth finish. I was sorely disappointed when Perry came in 5th place.
Back at HQ at the Sheraton hotel, Perry spoke to his dedicated volunteers, saying that he was going back to Texas to reassess if he did have a path forward. We were grief stricken…would he drop out? We waited and the next morning around 10 am he tweeted, “And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State…Here we come South Carolina!!!” That’s all we needed to know, Perry was still in!
As to the ‘loosey-goosey’ process comment that Perry is attributed to saying about the caucuses I can understand why. You can be a Democrat and vote in the Republican caucus. This in my opinion is questionable. But who am I to say, when in Iowa do as Iowans do. I sat next to a man who told me he was an ‘Independent’ voting for Ron Paul, his idol.
Not knowing which method to count out the ballots is unnerving and while an ID is required to register, I was not aware of any process to identify who was picking up the ballots. It was a very friendly atmosphere and they all seemed to know each other. Also the time allotted to talk about your candidate differed from caucus to caucus. The only strange comment made to me was after the counting of the ballots. I was told that I should not have been allowed to speak because I was not a caucus member and that they were just being nice. So in a sense the caucuses are a little ‘loosey-goosey’ of a process.
Still running, Perry calls Iowa caucuses ‘a loosey-goosey process’