Iowa blizzard: Winter blast could worsen non-representative way to elect candidates

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Most Iowans won't leave Monday night. Don't worry about that It is predicted to be below zeroWind chills could be as low as minus 40 degrees, and roads could still be icy from the blizzard that hit the state last week.

That's because they're not registered Republicans Presidential nomination season begins with that Popular caucuses. Or because they don't want to make the commitment to travel to 1,500 convention sites and sit in one room — potentially for hours — for the chance to vote for the party's presidential nominee.

But winter weather, threatening even for Iowa, could make an already unrepresentative process even less representative. Older Iowans, the backbone of the caucus, are wondering how they'll get to their bases on Monday. Political types are mentally underestimating their expected turnout and wondering who the smaller, harder-edged electorate will favor.

All of which gives longtime critics of the caucus even more reason to criticize.

Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and federal housing secretary who is the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020, said, “This is not a way to start a presidential election,” as he called for Iowa to have a low-key role. “You've got to be a tough guy who's willing to cross the ice and be out there for hours. If you miss that, you're out of the vote.

Democrats already have Downgraded Iowa after breaking state party vote count in 2020 caucuses. Democrats have pushed the state back in their nomination process President Joe Biden He announced that he wanted to cast first votes in various states that would best represent his party and the country. That party's process begins in South Carolina On that day Feb. 3And then New Hampshire moves to Nevada in the new line for 2024, even though the state party says national Democrats won't count starting Jan. 23.

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But Republicans are clinging to Iowa, which was once competitive but has shifted decidedly to the right. The age of Donald TrumpHe ruled the state in 2016 and 2020 general elections. Its population is whiter, more rural, and more evangelical than the nation's, but it aligns better with GOP voters than with Democrats.

Some Republicans expect an even stronger turnout, but most agree the weather will scare away at least some voters.

“It's going to be worse than ever,” said Doug Cross, a top aide to former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who said his own 90-year-old mother decided she couldn't caucus in these conditions. . “It will reduce turnout.”

Brad Anderson, state director of AARP Iowa, said, “Older voters historically determine who wins and loses races because “the caucuses tend to be older in terms of turnout.”

He said the caucus could be “somewhat extraneous”.

Cold and possible snowdrifts, especially in rural parts of the state, make conditions “treacherous” for people of all ages, Anderson said. He advised extreme caution, especially for those with mobility issues, and hopes Iowans will take safety into account.

A pickup truck drives down a snow-covered road under the Iowa Caucus sign, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neighborgal)

An elderly woman who lives in a nursing home in Newton called Thad Niermeier, chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party, to say she still drives, but “it's a little more convenient if someone else is driving,” he said. She'll ask friends, family and neighbors for rides to Monday's caucus.

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Widely organizing rides to the county party can be a huge undertaking, but Niermeier suggested that those interested in attending the caucus reach out to friends, family and neighbors.

“You know, with all this wind and snow right now, nobody's going to make it,” Niermeier said Friday. “But I think we've had time to clear the roads and let the wind die down. I think it's going to be well attended.”

Even under the best of circumstances, only a small fraction of Iowans participate in caucuses. In 2016, the state's population of more than 3.1 million people cast 186,000 votes in the Republican caucus. That provides a crucial kickoff to the race to lead the nation of 330 million people.

Caucuses are a relic Pressure to reform party nomination processes In the 1970s, the party freed them from capitalist influence. They helped vault underdogs like Democrats Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama into the White House.

Caucuses favor movement candidates — liberal Democrats and conservative, increasingly evangelical Republicans — whose supporters are willing to carve out time in their calendars and dominate the caucus chamber.

The small size of the event and overall Iowa is part of the pitch, said Stanford law professor Rabia Pelt.

“There are conflicting desires shaping the nominating process,” Belt said. “If you start with big states or states in expensive media markets, that creates hurdles for potential candidates who don't have a lot of money or organizational strength to begin with. Also, a small state will allow candidates to tailor their messages and work on their retail political game during intimate conversations with committed and interested people.

A man walks along a snow-covered sidewalk in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.  (AP Photo/Charlie Neighborgal)

A man walks along a snow-covered sidewalk in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Charlie Neighborgal)

A windmill is seen near Merrill, Iowa on January 12, 2024.

A windmill is seen near Merrill, Iowa on January 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Carolyn Castor, File)

Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver, was preparing Friday to take 13 of his students to watch the caucuses. He braced for the weather, but also for the inconsistency of the American nomination process.

“Nobody would design this on purpose,” Masket said. “Iowa and New Hampshire will have the most important contests – no one will design in January!”

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