Danger, danger. Flashing red lights. Unreliable. Unexperienced. Danger, danger!!!
The Obama campaign sees a treasure trove â€” and not just from young supporters. Aides intent on marshaling the forces of the Obama universe are trying to energize other niche groups, from veterans to African-Americans.
But the campaign is putting a particular focus on youth â€” and not just the much-discussed college student population in Iowa. The campaign has taken note of the roughly 40,000 high school seniors statewide who will be eligible to back candidates on caucus night â€” in a state where most 17-year-olds can vote and about 125,000 Democrats caucused in 2004.
There are Obama clubs at more than 140 high schools across Iowa â€” a state that has only 357 public high schools â€” and the campaign distributes special school-locker-shaped posters, long and thin, for high school students.
Here’s the thing. The Iowa Democratic caucuses are a very tricky political affair. It’s not an up and down vote like the Republican caucuses. People have to form groups over a certain number to get their candidate a percentage of the delegates available. And if that group isn’t big enough to get any delegates, those people either split up and join other groups or stand pat and hope more people join them…which, to my knowledge, doesn’t happen very often. And even if a group does get delegates, they can still split up. Crazy stuff, but that’s Iowa.
And here’s the catch…the number of people it takes to get a delegate is determined by how many people show up to that particular caucus. So the bigger the turnout, the more people you need to win your share of the delegates.
I’m sure I got something wrong in all of that, so for the details go here.
What’s important, though, is that you can get the stragglers to come over to your side to give you more delegates overall. That’s where this youth thing could really shoot Barack in the foot, because traditional caucus goers may not be too keen to join a bunch of kids. In fact, you can almost guarantee that they’ll be averse to the idea.
The campaign says it’s a myth that the same people go the caucuses every four years, but come on. Sure, you’ll always have new people, but you also have a core group of passionate folks who turn out. To suggest anything different seems to me like magical thinking.
Now, the story says that Obama isn’t betting the farm on these kids, and that’s obvious, but even if 10% of his support comes from that group, well, could that actually harm him?
I know that sounds cynical, but this is go time and small mistakes in Iowa can turn into huge stories.
Just ask Howard Dean.