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The Lid: Why the Caucus Process Will Matter in Iowa

Because we’re just a week out from Iowa Fight Night, it’s not a bad time to refresh folks’ memories about the unique quirks of how caucuses work.
US Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 24, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty ImagesJIM WATSON / AFP - Getty Images

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos… Michael Bloomberg is reportedly considering a potential 2016 run, which makes sense because there is a notable vacuum in the 2016 race for New York billionaires who have made their money with companies they named after themselves!

‘16 from 30,000

Because we’re just a week out from Iowa Fight Night, it’s not a bad time to refresh folks’ memories about the unique quirks of how caucuses work. And, specifically, how they don’t particularly reward candidates with deep but localized support. In Iowa, there are a total of 1,681 precincts that will meet to caucus, plus Democratic satellite and tele-caucuses. But the NUMBER of delegates awarded in each county doesn’t fluctuate even if turnout in those areas is way up, As MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald notes, the three counties with big Iowa universities – strongholds of Bernie Sanders’ support - award only 12 percent of delegates statewide. In other words, even if the folks who are Feelin’ the Bern in Iowa show up in droves in the geographic areas most favorable to him, Sanders will need broad support well outside of those power centers to really rack up the score. Another quirk worth noting, by the way, is that candidates in the Iowa Democratic caucuses need at least 15 percent support in any given precinct to earn delegates from that gathering. So keep an eye on who Iowa O’Malley supporters are considering as their second-choice pick; it could actually make a difference in some of the most competitive parts of the state.


  • NBC’s Danny Freeman and Monica Alba report on the flood of Clinton surrogates fanning out in Iowa.
  • ICYMI this morning: Former presidential candidate Rick Perry endorsed Ted Cruz.
  • A superPAC supporting Ted Cruz is going negative against Trump.
  • Benjy Sarlin offers a briefing on what to watch out for in Iowa with one week to go.
  • Here’s a good read from Alex Seitz-Wald on how geography is on Hillary Clinton’s side in Iowa.
  • NBC’s Monica Alba writes the tale of two rallies -- the difference in both style and substance between a Trump and Clinton event.
  • And from First Read this AM: Get ready for a long fight for the Democratic nod.


“I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president.. of Sweden.”

  • Marco Rubio ribbing Bernie Sanders during an event in Des Moines on Monday


Ted Cruz hold seven events in Iowa. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Bernie Sanders are also in the state.

John Kasich is in New Hampshire, and Jeb Bush travels to Elko, Nevada.

After his morning stop in Iowa, Bernie Sanders heads to Minnesota.