At the Walnut Creek Community Church in the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights, the largely white-haired Hillary caucus goers sat in the front rows to the left of the nave and the Obama supporters, much younger and wielding digital cameras, sat in the front rows on the right. Behind them were reserved sections marked by posters on the wall for Richardson and Edwards, and then handwritten signs for Dodd, Kucinich and Biden and Edwards.
Angie King officially convened the meeting.
“I am absolutely thrilled with this turnout,” she said, before calling the caucus system the “absolute optimum of participatory politics.”
The Clinton supporters passed around sandwhiches and potato chips. The Richardson backers had cookies and water.
For a head-count, King led the packed church in a count off that went from the stage to the seats to the hall. With all 287 people accounted for, (168 was the number four years ago), the caucusgoers broke up into preference groups, with a threshold of 44 necessary to achieve viability.
Obama had 103 supporters. Clinton had 74. Edwards had 55. All the other candidats failed to reach viability. Richardson had 28 supporters, Biden had 17, Dodd had three and Kucinich had two supporters. Four undecided gathered on the stage.
With the numbers announced, the three frontrunners picked representatives to poach supporters.
Walt Matlock, 52, a Hillary representative made a beeline for the Biden group.
“We have a lady who is ready to take over on day one,” he said. “She has a health care plan that covers everyone.”
Denise Pate, an Obama representative, interjected. If he is elected President we will be looked at differently by the world.”
An older woman walked by, “Dewey, would you come to Edwards?” “Sure,” said Dewey Heaton. “When I can.”
Another Hillary representative, Gloria Follett, rushed over.
“Who can beat the Republican candidate?” she said. “Who can bring the troops home?” said Pate. One of the four independents decided to go with Clinton.
Azul-Christian Carabello, the daughter of Mexican immigrats, said she was leaning heavily towards Obama until he refused to take a stand on a proposal to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. “I was for him, but I thought that was cowardly,” said the 21-year-old. She chose Clinton.
In the end, her support wasn’t enough.
“Oh come on. Eighty-two?,” said the Clinton supporter Follett.
They recounted and got 85.
The Obama group counted 115 and started cheering.
“That was 116 because I forgot to count myself,” said Kathryn Dickel, the group’s leader.
The final vote was Obama 116 votes, Clinton 85 and Edwards 74. [ed note: The most recent returns, with 70 percent of precincts reporting, has Obama with 35, Clinton with 31 and Edwards with 31. CNN just called it for Obama.]