Most Republican Presidential Candidates consider the Iowa Caucuses to be an important launching pad for their campaigns. Iowa is the first state to select candidates to represent them at the national convention that will nominate the Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates to challenge the incumbent Barack Obama. Next will come the New Hampshire and then the South Carolina primaries.
The caucuses and primaries are not elections; they are means for a political party to select candidates to represent them in upcoming elections. Some parties in some states may use conventions to select candidates.
South Carolina selects its preference for a presidential candidate through a primary. The purpose of this column is to point out some of the differences between the South Carolina primary and the Iowa caucuses.
In many respects, the Iowa Caucuses are like the South Carolina Republican precinct reorganizations. The caucuses are held at the precinct level. The precinct leader is the temporary chairman and conducts the meeting until permanent officers are elected by those present.
The caucuses elect delegates to represent the precinct at the county convention and two representatives to represent each precinct on the county committee. One person can speak 5 minutes in support of each candidate. The caucus members will vote on a paper ballot and a reporter will call in totals to the county party. The calls will be made to a phone number to be announced just prior to the caucuses for security reasons. Only party and caucus officials will know the official phone number.
Iowa has registration by party, South Carolina does not. Only registered Republicans may participate in a Republican caucus. Registration forms will be available at each caucus location and registered Democrats, Socialists or whatever may change their party affiliation, register as a Republican, and participate in the caucus and the following day change their registration back to their original preference.
Registered voters in South Carolina do not have to declare a party affiliation. Therefore, all registered voters may vote in the Republican Presidential Primary if they so desire. The only time Democrats are prohibited from voting in a Republican primary is when Democrats are also having a primary. In that instance, it is illegal to vote in both.
Conservative, pro-life Christians make up a majority of the regular Iowa Republican Party. They may or may not make up a majority of those that turn out for the caucuses on Tuesday evening. Two days before the caucuses, the Conservative Christians seemed to be rallying around Sen. Santorum. At the same time, polls of likely caucus attendees showed Romney and Ron Paul in the lead.
Local observers report that both Romney and Paul have organizations ready to operate in virtually all precincts. Romney has support across the Republican spectrum, with a lock on the more moderate Republicans.
Ron Paul has support from Libertarian and constitutional Republicans. He can also pull from factions of the Democrat Party that include the Gay, Anti-war, and Legalized Drug lobbies.
In the Iowa Caucuses, it will be a matter of record who switched parties just to participate in selecting the Republican candidate for president. Furthermore, the Republican Party is running the Caucuses.
The State Government is running the South Carolina Primary. There is no way to officially document how many and what Democrats vote in the Republican primary. Observers will visually recognize any Democrat officials at the polls, however.
Finally, neither the Iowa Caucuses nor the South Carolina Primary will necessarily pick the candidate that would be the first choice of legitimate Republicans. These “open” primaries and caucuses are a major factor in the declining respect and support for the Republican Party and unless they can select the best Republican candidates to oppose Democrats, we will never reverse the decline of our constitutional republic.