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Iowa horse trading

DES MOINES, Iowa — Caucus rhymes with raucous, and it turns out that it could not be any more fitting.

For proof, witness what happened Thursday at McCombs Middle School on the outskirts of Des Moines. About 160 people crammed into the school cafeteria and went to the area designated for the candidate they were supporting, except for the handful that looked like they were lost.

Then the caucus chairman announced that everybody had better stay put, because the counting was going to begin soon.

And then all politics broke loose.

The huge Clinton contingent at the center of the room sat smug and quiet while the slightly smaller Obama crowd in the corner whooped and hollered.

Worse yet, the poor caucus-goers supporting losing candidates like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd had to fend off emissaries from the Clinton, Obama and John Edwards camps, who pleaded with them to abandon the losers for the "viable candidates."

"Your brethren in the New York Fire Department — they're for Hillary!" one middle-age woman beseeched a lonely firefighter for Dodd.

"I have a son who's a firefighter!" a woman from the Edwards camp noted, not that it did any good.

Meanwhile, ambassadors from the Dodd, Biden and Bill Richardson camps negotiated unsuccessfully to merge efforts so that one of the three would get 15 percent of the total caucus goers and thus be "viable."

There was much whispering and marching back and forth among various corners of the room, prompting an organizer from Biden to sum up the caucus process for exactly what it is.

"This is great! It's like Monty Hall … let's make a deal!"

This, friends, is how America starts picking its presidents.

For the record, Clinton won the caucus in Precinct 92, with 60 caucus goers versus 49 for Obama and 46 for Edwards.

But does America win when it begins its elections with these raucous caucuses in a state where the hogs outnumber the people by more than five to one? What do you think?

---Jerry Zremski

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Race for the White House
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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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