Exclusive: Inside The Minds of the Iowa Caucus
DES MOINES, Iowa. The results of the Iowa caucus shocked a nation completely unaware of Rick Santorum and his sweater vests of power— shocked everyone, that is, except Iowans.
In Cedar Rapids precinct 41, Santorum supporters were out in full force. Dennis Spencer, who gave a speech to the caucus in support of Santorum call him the “candidate of the people.”
“Santorum would,” Spencer said, “uphold family values and the constitution and represent us in Washington.” Jeanine Greer a mother of four liked Santorum and said she was happy with him as a candidate, but she ultimately voted for Ron Paul. “I like him and I like his foreign policy,” she said. But, when asked if she would vote for Mitt Romney, who carried the precinct with 116 votes, she said shook her head. “If Romney won,” she said, “I might just sit this one out.”
Romney supporters were cagey, declining to talk on the record about their candidate. One elderly woman told me to “go away” when I asked her about her Romney button and another flipped me the bird. I even tried holding a baby, while I questioned Romney supporters, but chubby cheeks aside (mine and the babies), I was stonewalled. Oddly enough, despite the fact that Romney won the precinct and carried Cedar Rapids in the 2007 caucuses, no one spoke on his behalf.
Why the silence? A Santorum supporter, who didn’t want to give her name, chalked up the silence to “the Mormon thing” as she put it. When I asked her to explain she said, “No one really wants to support a Mormon. Not this crowd of conservatives anyway.”
Michelle Smith disagreed with that assessment. She would have no problem voting for anyone “Mormon or whatever” just as long as it wasn’t President Obama. The real problem, she saw, was the issue of women. “No one wants a woman in the White House. They’d rather have a black guy than a woman. That’s why I’m not voting for Michelle Bachmann, she just can’t win.” (Smith cast her vote for Ron Paul.)
The issue of Michelle Bachmann’s electability was up for debate. Carol Granger, who spoke on behalf of Bachmann, noted in her speech, “Many pundits say she’s not electable, but what do they know? They don’t know. Only God knows.” Granger’s comment elicited laughter and applause. She went on to encourage people to vote with courage for Michelle Bachman, but in the precinct, only eight people heeded that call.
The most conspiracy-oriented supporters at precinct 41 were those stumping for Newt Gingrich. Mike Tollefson, who spoke to the caucus on behalf of Newt Gingrich, spent much of his speech accusing other pundits of conspiring against Gingrich to ruin his candidacy.
“[Rick] Perry and others have tried to bring him down,” Tollefson said, “But it won’t work.” Tollefson was booed off the stage when his speech went over the allotted time period. If there was a conspiracy by Perry to bring down Gingrich, it didn’t work; Gingrich beat Perry by 3%, although both were far outpaced by Ron Paul, Santorum and Romney.
When I asked Fred (who declined to give his last name or divulge his vote) whether there was a conspiracy against Gingrich, he laughed. “The only conspiracy is by Obama to run our country into the ground.”
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