First time voters may hold key to 2008

Hattie Irving, an 81-year old Iowan, has never participated in her state’s presidential caucuses, but she plans to this time — to support Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I was very impressed with her as first lady. I think it’s important to take part,” Irving said at a Clinton campaign event at a senior center here.

Brad Smith, a 27-year old engineer who moved to the state in 2005, plans to attend his first precinct caucus, too — and stand up for Barack Obama.

“The caucuses were intimidating to me when I came here — I didn’t really know what the word meant,” he said. “But regardless of how difficult or confusing it is, I feel like I need to take action.”

As the Democratic front-runners compete with John Edwards to win the state’s Jan. 3 contest, Clinton and Obama are counting on thousands of first-time caucus goers to show up.

Hers are grayer and generally female. His tend to be younger and male.

Experts say gambling on either group is risky.

“Many candidates over the years have said they’ll bring in more young people and more women to the caucuses. Virtually all of those efforts have been failures,” said Hugh Winebrenner, an emeritus professor and caucus historian at Iowa’s Drake University. “No matter how much hoopla surrounds the caucuses, the people who show up tend to be the party regulars.”

Strategists for Clinton and Obama are working hard to dispel that notion. They say older women will turn out to help elect the first female president, that young folks will show up for the young man who’s energized their political interest.

They also concede that Edwards’ strength among experienced caucus goers gives him a significant leg up. He’s been working hard at this in Iowa since the 2004 campaign.

Edwards is trying to bring in new voters, too. Recent events featuring singers Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne were designed to bring in Iowans who might not show up for a routine political rally.

The caucuses do attract plenty of newcomers each year, but candidates who rely on them have typically done so at their peril. The most prominent example is Howard Dean, who came in a distant third in 2004 after his promise to bring in new supporters fell disastrously short.

While both Clinton and Obama are attracting new faces, the demographics could favor Clinton: 57 percent of caucus goers in 2004 were over 55, while just 11 percent were younger than 34. Women 55 and older were half of those who turned out, while men under 50 were just 18 percent.

Even so, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, believes young people are among the Illinois senator’s most motivated supporters.

“Young voters were the ones drafting Obama to run for president last year, and we saw his ability to inspire them,” Hildebrand said. “We say to them, ‘You know all those pundits and prognosticators who say you don’t vote? You need to prove them wrong.'”

To stay in touch with them, the campaign is using social networking Web sights like Facebook as well as one-on-one meetings and gatherings at schools and coffee shops.

The campaign has mounted an unprecedented effort to organize high school students, who are permitted to caucus if they’ll turn 18 before the general election next November.

Clinton organizers estimate some 70 percent of her caucus goers will be women, most of whom are middle-aged or older and an untold number who are new to the caucus process. The campaign has even compiled a list of more than 600 likely female caucus attendees who are over 90 years old — born before women won the right to vote in 1920.

Its universe of elderly newcomers presents a host of challenges to the Clinton team. Organizers are praying for good weather on caucus night, since older people are less likely to venture outside in the teeth of a snow or ice storm.

The campaign is also offering rides to thousands of supporters, and making sure older women are escorted by a friend or neighbor rather than a stranger.

But just as product advertising experts tend to ignore older consumers because they rarely adopt new behaviors, so it is with older Iowans who haven’t caucused in the past. Skeptics like Drake University’s Winebrenner doubt many senior citizens will actually attend the caucus if they haven’t showed interest in a lifetime of living in the state.

“I really don’t see Hillary bringing in all these old ladies,” he said.

To that, Clinton strategists have a ready answer: They’ll come because they are eager to help elect the first woman president.

“Every day we meet more and more women who have never caucused before, but are excited and energized by the historic nature of her candidacy and message of change. They are a major reason we expect to do well caucus night,” spokesman Mo Elleithee said.


  1. Carl Nemo

    “Hattie Irving, an 81-year old Iowan, has never participated in her state’s presidential caucuses, but she plans to this time — to support Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

    What a sweet! Ol’ Hattie is finally getting involved in politics. Yep she’s a citizen just like me, you, et. al., entitled to her opinions and choices for candidates to the presidency.

    Sorry folks, it’s people like Hattie Irving and others; the so-called “greatest generation”, with their retrograde, antideluvian, downhome views of the world;ie., how it oughta be from the 40’s thru 60’s that has gotten this nation in trouble. Hattie has not grown mentally nor intellectually and is the type of voter that gets sucked into crooked pol “hype” as ever, no…?!

    There’s no shortage of the Hattie’s or “gray panthers” who represent the largest and most dangerous block of voters relative to the continual viability of this nation! They are living in the past and are as little children, not realizing they are coping with New World Order monsters!

    I urge all the “young” newly registered voters to get off their collective duffs and start excercising their voting rights to negate this gray panther, freedom destroying phenomena. It’s time for them to say enough is enough from these aging, semi-senile, soon-to-punch out, greatest generation voters. Their continual, comfortable, simplistic choices represent “death to freedom”!

    I’m 62 and I’ve had had a bellyful of them as well as my own generation; the greatest materialistic centered disappointments for all time and all places…! My generation fell asleep at the wheel of life as well as the so-called “greatest generation”. The continual acquisition of “stuff” and imagined comforts are more important than freedom itself…!

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. SEAL

    Exactly right, Carl. The depression generation came home from the war to prosperity and “credit.” Now they were able to have all those good life things only the rich had before WWII and then spoiled the living shit out of their children, giving them all of that which they grew up without.

    What they created was a worthless, self centered, fat, lazy, materialistic, pot head, live on credit, majority of fools that have enslaved themselves to the money mogals and are now looking for someone to save them when they run out of refinance options. Doing something about it themselves does not occur to them. They have no idea how much trouble they are in. Their government has just raped them and the shit is going to hit the fan very soon.

    We are already seeing half empty neighborhoods of boarded up houses and luxury road tanks parked beside the road for sale hopefully before they get repossesed. Everything but wages have gone up for the past 10 years and the good blue collar jobs are in China. Now the white collar jobs are going somewhere while CEOs make 10-20 million a year.

    What will these spoiled little children do? They probably won’t freak until they lose their cell phones. But what really gets me is how they seem to have no concern for what they have left for their children and grand children. All I hear them say is they are concerned about their own retirement. Still only concerned with self.

  3. Sandra Price

    I’m one of those WW2 generation members but I have never not voted. As far as Hillary Clinton is concerned; I dug up my updated copy of “Unlimited Access” by Gary Aldrich and would like to share some of it with you.

    Not only did Hillary not have a security clearance, nobody in the Clinton white house bothered with it. It nearly drove FBI Agent Aldrich insane trying to protect the White House.

    Gary showed up here at CHB with a preview of his book and I ran out and bought several copies for gifts and reference. To say the Clinton are liars is an understatement and many jouranalists and writers have written volumes of their exposed double talk. Why? Why?

    Haven’t we had enough games in the White House; isn’t it time we located one American candidate with integrity? They all sound like liars to me. I looked at the Romneys last night and
    Mrs. Romney looks as if all of us smell bad. Her arrogance is nearly as apparent as her model husband. I’m tired of these religious people looking down their noses at the unwashed American voters. They have no reason to be square with any of us and simply want to hand America over to Jesus Christ.

    I’m distressed with the comments above as my age group is pictured as not giving a damn. Think what you will, I see us in a very different light. Hell, yes, most of us have no respect for the federal government and many worked our arses off to put our kids through college and set up retirement funds so the government would never have to hand us anything.

    My age group have been lied to by every religious and conservative group known to man. Our kids did well but the hypocrisy broke when it came to our grandkids. They aren’t buying the phony patriotism from people like the Bush family. They aren’t even buying the threats of home-grown terrorism coming from the hell and damnation of the churches.

    America is an illusion of something that died years ago when our rational minds were washed out by some Evangelical movement.

    You have to have someone to blame other than yourselves. How many freedoms have you worked to save? Or did you work only for your own welfare?

    When you have worked 50 years for your families and hour grandchildren and seen it explode through rotten government plans, then look in the mirror! The majority of my age group were not wealthy, we took nothing from any of you. We tried to leave a legacy of financial stability and you call it greed and want our inheritance taken by the government so you can win your goddamn wars.

    I’m not your problem, you will always need someone to blame.

  4. Carl Nemo

    Sandra Price you’ve possibly missed the point of my indictment concerning the so-called greatest generation. You’ve personalized it and I can assure you that you don’t fit the ol’ “Hattie Irving” profile as outlined in the article. She’s 81 and is “now” becoming active in politics, worse yet she’s gravitating towards one of the biggest political shills for all time and all places; ie., Hillary Clinton…?!

    SEAL connected the dots of my broader indictment and there’s really nothing more to be said. Most of the greatest generation have “I Like Ike” brains trying to function in a highly dangerous NWO, Bushista, corporatist world; to their peril!

    To put it simply, they’ve been screwed so many times by lying candidates that they still haven’t awakened to the fact that they need to do their homework and to dig for dirt on these people. None of the candidates running for the presidency are clean. Ol’ Hattie Irving is enamoured with “Billary”…?! She’s got a bucket on her head and has no interest in doing serious reasearch on the Clintons, so to me she’s a “dangerous” voting entity because she’s uninformed!

    Obviously if the village idiot electorate anywhere and everywhere are enamoured with the Clintons, then they too must have very short memories. Their only fond memory of the Clinton years were their 401k’s which grew plump during the tech boom, followed by the tech wreck, a somewhat milder version of the current housing debacle. After the tech wreck a host of corporate crooks popped out of the woodwork from Enron to Worldcom. Yeah “we the people” had a great party while the Clintons were in office, so did they!

    If I recall they rented out historical bedrooms in the Whitehouse, they took campaign contributions from offshore interests including “Red China”. Bill authorized the shipment of radiation hardened, guidance chips through his buddy Bernard Schwartz, CEO of Loral Space Division. Chinese officers were shuffling around our super secret Los Alamos research facility as compensation for the campaign payola the Clintons were receiving topside from the Chinese. Bill Clinton gave Red China a free 20 year leap in nuclear delivery technology, courtesy of the U.S. taxpaid R&D…?! Btw, the Chinese are still “Red Commies” in pirate capitalist clothing. They care not for our political paradigm, and in the end we could very well become a nation of tenant farmers on “their” land; ie., the United States of America.

    The Chinese have already gamed nuclear war with them predicting they shall be the northern hemispheric survivors of such an unthinkable conflagration. Evidently they shall inherit the earth post holocaust along with cockroaches and other insects. Yep, thankyou Bill Clinton and the “Hatties” that want to put his wife in office too.

    I rest my case.

    Carl Nemo**==

  5. Sandra Price

    You then will have the last word. I live with these seniors and have for years and we are not selfish and yes, we all belong to the I like Ike generation as he won our damn war and warned us not to fall into the Industrial Military Complex.

    I was called selfish on Reader Rant and lost my priveliges I told them to fuck off. My generation have never not voted and some hick from Iowa is not the standard for any of us.

    CHB is turning into a manic place for socialists and I am out of here. I’ve been banned many times here but damnit I have been right 100% of the time. I warned about Bush that he would take us to war. I was banned for it. I will be banned again for refusing to take the insults from you Johnny come latelies.

  6. Carl Nemo

    Sandra Price, since I’m an old fashioned gentleman and have manners, I’ll offer you my personal apology for having upset you so, but not for my ideas.

    I didn’t realize that commentary from early day CHB members have more gravitas than so-called Johnny come latelies. I’ll miss your commentary. There’s no need to leave CHB.

    “Never, never, never quit” …Winston Churchill

    Carl Nemo **==