How do the Iowa caucuses choose a candidate?

Starting at 8pm ET  tomorrow night, Iowans will gather in the state’s 1,774 precincts to start the process by which the Iowa convention will choose delegates to go choose delegates who will then choose .. yes, more delegates. How exactly does that work?

Held in places like schools, libraries and  private homes, the precinct gatherings start as a conference of sorts. Each candidate will have a selected representative that will do their best to convince caucus goers that their candidate is the best candidate to be the Republican nominee for president.

The caucus attendees must be registered republicans, but registration is allowed at the entrance. In a year where the democrat nominee is a foregone conclusion, many that vote democrat will cross-over to caucus in the republican events using this process.

Once the speeches are finished, the voters will be given a blank piece of paper upon which they will write the name of the candidate that they prefer. The votes will be tabulated and phoned into the precinct GOP office.

Based on the tallies, delegates from each precinct will be chosen to go to the county conventions. The number of delegates is directly proportional to the number of votes each candidate receives. From the Iowa GOP web site:

  • All caucus participants arrive at their precincts where they will sign in at the door upon arrival.  Caucuses will begin at 7:00PM CT.
  • The caucus meetings begin with the pledge of allegiance.  A caucus chair and secretary will be elected by the body to run the meeting and take notes.
  • After the chair and secretary are elected, candidate representatives from each campaign are given time to speak on behalf of their candidate.
  • Once the speakers have finished, sheets of paper are be passed out to every registered Iowa Republican from the precinct. Voters then write down their candidate preference.
  • All votes are then collected.
  • Every vote is counted.  The caucus chair and secretary will count the votes in front of the caucus and a representative from each campaign is allowed to observe the counting of the votes. The results are recorded on an official form provided by the Republican Party of Iowa and are announced to the caucus.
  • A caucus reporter is chosen to report the results to the Republican Party of Iowa, accompanied by campaign representatives to verify the results reported to Iowa GOP officials.
  • RPI officials do not count results; they aggregate them from around the state and report them to the media.  To ensure consistency in reporting, campaign representatives have the opportunity to be present with RPI officials as votes are reported to the public.
  • We will be reporting the votes for Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, “No Preference,” and “Other.”
  • “No Preference” votes include those who vote “present,” “no preference, “uncommitted,” or “none of the above.”
  • Within fourteen days of the caucus, certified results will be released for a complete breakdown of all caucus votes that were cast by precinct.
  • After the Presidential preference poll is completed the caucus will elect precinct committee representatives; delegates, alternates, and junior delegates to the county convention; and discuss and submit platform resolutions for consideration at the county convention.

At a later county convention, county delegates will be picked to go to the state convention where final delegates will be chosen to go to the Republican National Convention this fall in Tampa, Florida.

The Iowa delegates for the national convention aren’t actually chosen until the end of all of the primaries/caucuses. So while Iowa is the first in the nation to hold it’s preliminary election event, it is one of the very last to actually select delegates for the actual nomination event.

With 41% of Iowa voters still saying that they could be swayed, the caucuses tomorrow night could prove interesting. How cross-over voters might affect the nomination process is yet to be seen.


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Rich Mitchell

Rich Mitchell is the editor-in-chief of Conservative Daily News and the president of Bald Eagle Media, LLC. His posts may contain opinions that are his own and are not necessarily shared by Bald Eagle Media, CDN, staff or .. much of anyone else. Find him on twitter, facebook and

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