Writings and observations

The size and the disposition

Some followup on initial thoughts about the Idaho caucuses, mainly expanding on the two obvious points: The Obama unanimity, and the sheer size of the turnout. (Full numbers are at the state Democratic web site.)

bullet The sweep for Illinois Senator Barack Obama was overwhelming. He took 43 of Idaho’s 44 counties, and the one lost – Lewis, in the north-central – is one of the smallest. (No obvious answers to that outlier, other than that Lewis is unusual in that it is small, remote, rural and still has a substantial local Democratic core, which may retain some loyalty to the Clinton Administration.)

Among larger counties, the Obama percentages were remarkably consistent, many in the 70-85% range – Ada 84.5% (district 1 at 84%, and 2 at 87%), Canyon 76%, Kootenai 81%, Latah 80%, Nez Perce 71%, Bonneville 78%, Twin Falls 74%. Bannock would have to be considered on the low end, with just 68% in the Obama column.

Apart from Lewis, the best Hillary Clinton numbers came in some of the mid-population or smaller farm counties which have strong Hispanic populations – Lincoln (43%), Jerome (42%), Bear Lake (42%), Franklin (37%), Minidoka (36%), Washington (36%), Camas (36%). And Shoshone County (43% Clinton), which like Lewis has a still-in-place local Democratic establishment.

bullet Stats from 2004 and earlier aren’t readily available – we’ll try and find some – but it certainly seems as if the more than 21,000 participants in the Tuesday Idaho caucuses blew well past anything the state had seen from Democrats before.

The reasons are less clear. Some of it may have been support for Obama. Some of it may have been a party switch, or increased involvement on the part of independents. Whichever, this will call for some ongoing inquiry.

We fielded a question from D.C. this morning to the effect: Does the high turnout in Idaho caucuses portend a voter shift in November? Our thought is that point shouldn’t be pushed too far – while more than 20,000 participants packed the caucuses, the voting population in November may top 650,000, so this still is only a small percentage of that.

But it doesn’t feel irrelevant, either.

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