Obama and Caucuses

OBAMA AND CAUCUSES….So why is Barack Obama so awesome in caucus states? Except for Nevada, he’s won every single one going away. Here are some speculations from the comment thread to last night’s post:

  • PTS: I think the best explanation is a combination of a) Obama’s team put a lot of resources into organizing the caucuses and b) Clinton’s people decided not to contest them. You can’t organize in a week.

  • ikl: A couple of things: (1) Obama tends to be more popular in the great plains and interior west which account for most caucuses (he won pretty big in the Utah primary, for example), (2) Obama voters are more enthusiastic in most states, (3) Obama voters are more likely to be high information voters, (4) in most caucus states, Obama voters are less likely to work odd shifts or have childcare obligations that they can’t get out of….

  • BRM: A larger subset of Obama voters are very committed to him, and thus more likely to go to the trouble of caucusing. I think a larger subset of Clinton’s supporters are more passive. There are some passionate Clinton supporters, but they are rarer.

    I causused today in Washington, and it takes a lot of planning, research into finding your site, and commitment to go. If I wasn’t very strongly supporting Obama, I just wouldn’t have committed three hours on a Saturday to go sit in an elementary school gym.

  • Nate: The press surely isn’t talking about it, but caucuses seriously disenfranchise working class and older voters. I know personally that in Iowa, near half of Hillary’s supporters were older women who could not make it to the caucus for fear of the drive, the weather, etc. Working class people often can’t or won’t show up to a caucus if it requires getting a babysitter or missing a night shift.

  • BombIranforChrist: Primaries are private, caucuses are public. People seem to have an easier time voting for Obama in public than voting for Hillary in public. Hillary is not really that well liked, not even by some of her supporters. Fairly or unfairly, a lot of people, including some of her supporters, are not totally enamored by her and in a caucus, people have to stand up and say, “Yup, I support this person who a lot of us don’t really even like. Yay me!”

  • BDB: Caucuses tend to be dominated by democratic party elites and activists, Obama’s base.

  • Callimaco: Everyone knew Clinton was going to run a big state, traditional Democratic campaign….[Obama] used a two prong strategy to build a stalemate through Super Tuesday: 1) remain close enough in the big state, 2) trounce Clinton in the small states.

    Given that strategy, and give the clear fact that he intended that strategy from the start, it makes sense to invest very, very heavily in caucus states because those are the elections over which a campaign can exercise the most control. More, organizing takes time and people and those are things Obama had in abundance. Those are also the states in which Clinton was investing the least resources because they seemed almost irrelevant to her campaign strategy.

  • Mnemosyne: Given the demographics of the voters for each candidate, it makes perfect sense that Obama is doing better in the caucuses than Clinton. Obama’s voters tend to be young and middle-class; Hillary’s voters tend to be older and working-class. Which of those two groups has a lot of time and energy to spend at a caucus?

  • Monica: We live in SW Washington, not too far from Vancouver (WA) and Portland (Ore). The site for the caucus this afternoon was a local grade school. Inside the cafeteria where everyone first assembled there were Obama buttons available, piles of Obama flyers and some Obama posters on the precinct tables. There was no evidence that the Clinton campaign had sent anything at all over. Talking to some friends who gathered at other sites, it was much the same story. Obama literature and signs scattered around, nothing much, if anything at all from the Clinton side.

To summarize: Caucuses require organization and Obama was better organized. They require enthusiasm and he has more enthusiastic supporters. They require time, and his demographic has more free time. They’re mostly in small states, and Obama targeted small states. They’re dominated by activists, and activists tend to support Obama.

Interesting stuff. Some of it (for example, that women, the elderly, and working class voters are underrepresented at caucuses) can be tested by looking at exit poll data, and maybe I’ll do that later. The other stuff is harder to get a handle on. But worth thinking about anyway.