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Caucus Day Debrief

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The caucus for my hunk of the 55418 was held in an elementary school building. Both big parties were having their caucus there. Fitting to party stereotypes, the DFL (Democrats) were assigned to ther library media center, while the Republicans got the lunchroom.

Nobody checked my ID. I just went to the table for my Ward and Precinct and signed in. There was little formality and just enough order to make the proceedings legitimate. When we finally got started on business, about fifteen minutes late, the Convener was amazed by the turnout. He said that in 2010 there were 9 people. This time we had 47.

Of the 47, I recognized a small handful from my time as a community organizer. It's no wonder that the NRP served as a farm system to develop DFL candidates. The Republicans evidently didn't try to take over the system that funneled millions of dollars from the City to neighborhoods.

The agenda for the caucus was to allow people to speak on behalf of candidates, take a straw poll, and then elect delegates to the next convention. Only a few people took the opportunity to speak.

The first was a guy who fit the popular image of a Paulbot. He was young, and he admitted that he hadn't had time to study a lot of political theory. But he liked the ideas of sound money and individual liberty.

The second speaker was on of those I recognized from my community organizing. He announced that he was 72 years old ad had lived in the neighborhood since the age of dinosaurs. He rambled a bit about how it was historically a railroad-worker neighborhood, and therefore a union neighborhood. He insisted that old-time political dynasts like Walt Dziedzic were really conservative, but ran as Democrats to get elected. Somebody wondered what this narrative had to do with the issue at hand.

So the old man shifted to the meat of his pitch. Unfortunately, he spent five minutes talking about how Ron Paul was not a conservative and how a vote for Paul was a vote for Obama. After saying Paul “didn't have a Chinaman's chance”, the guy noticed there were a coupe of Asian-looking people in the group. It was delicious. Somebody else in the crowd wondered if we were supposed to be speaking for or against candidates. This pushed the old man to reveal his choice: Mitt Romney. Although not perfect, Romney had the best chance to beat Obama. And if we voted for Paul, that explains why Democrats control Minneapolis.

We had a voice for Santorum, the only female to speak. Her pitch was brief, mentioning the importance of family values. And we had a trio of speakers for Gingrich. Two of the Newt backers were pieces of work.

One drifted off into another anti-Paul rant, suggesting that Paul was funded by George Soros to destroy the Republican primaries. I wish I could remember his blog address. A mostly normal fellow said he thought Newt had the best record as a conservative. The third Gingrich guy was such a bad speaker I can't say he made a point other than to identify who he liked.

Also of note was a Paul supporter who brought up the War on Drugs as a concern. He said he was an airline pilot, and didn't use drugs, but thought people should be free to make their own choices.

The convener allowed some time for questions. One person, a mom with her baby in a sling, identified herself as a teacher and wondered where the candidates stood on education. She was worried that if Federal funding was cut, class sizes would grow and results would suffer. The Paul faction had the most complete response, saying that Paul was more concerned with local control than defunding. There were some interjections and cross-talk throughout all the speakers and questions, but it was all sufficiently civil. The last comment was someone stating that a vote for Paul was a vote for Paul, not a vote for Obama.

The straw poll took some time to accomplish. Each person was given a ballot with the four contenders' names and a space for a write-in. Paul won with an outright majority, 24 of 47 votes. Santorum was second with 12, Romney got 6 and Gingrich 5. Upon heating the results, the geriatric Romney supporter stomped out, muttering something about us not being conservatives.

After the straw poll, many of our 47 left. The Paul campaign talks of delegates, and the importance of staying through the end of a caucus to be Paul receives the maximum. I saw the merit of the strategy

Our precinct had to select 5 delegates and five alternates to the next convention. Although there are two more steps up the hierarchy before selecting delegates to the National Convention, if a candidate has none at the bottom, he will have trouble at the top. Twelve people, including myself, volunteered to compete for the available spots. It was decided that each would make a pitch, and everyone present would vote for five. The top five would become delegates, and the next five would become alternates.

I thought about withdrawing, since I am not a party player and have too many commitments. But of the dozen, only four were obviously Paul supporters. After we each made our pitch, I realized Paul had more support than I estimated.

The first speaker talked loud and clear about personal liberty. One fellow, the father of the baby in a sling, identified himself as a rare animal, a Republican who supported unions. The Gingrich guy was again mostly unintelligible. We had a couple of people say they were interested in learning the party system and process, without making a strong statement about their position or preferred candidate.

I spoke last. I said, “I have lived in the neighborhood for twenty years and have been reading the Constitution for forty years. It would be great if the government abided by it.” Other than my name, that's all I said. It turned out to be good enough.

The counting of votes for delegate took quite a while. The top four vote-getters were solid for Paul. I was in a three-way tie for the 5th spot. One of the three offered to become an alternate, leaving two of us vying to be the last delegate. The other person, I think had said some things leaning toward Romney. Maybe it was Santorum, but she was not a Paul supporter.

I offered to accept a coin flip for the final spot. My opponent thought was was too arbitrary. She preferred a vote by those of us still present. That was a tactical error. I won the runoff, 8-3.

So, I am a Republican delegate. From my precinct, all five delegates will be voting Ron Paul at the next convention. Although Santorum won the State straw poll, I have seen--and am now part of--the process by which Paul is attempting to win the nomination.

My precinct had the largest turnout of the several assembled in that lunchroom. Paul won the aggregate vote, but not with a majority. The overall results were Paul 54, Santorum 42, Romney 11, Gingrich 5. I did not hear how the other precincts allocated their delegates.