Candidates, surrogates ‘speechify’ at Iowa caucuses

At homes, schools, churches, citizens perform their civic duty

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WAUKEE, Iowa — At 7 p.m., the final voters were ushered into the sanctuary of Point of Grace Church, a high-tech, stadium-style room, and the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses were under way in this suburb just west of Des Moines.

One man joked with his friend, “Can’t we just throw our votes in a bucket and be done with it?”

“No, they have to speechify first,” another man responded.

Iowa fights to be the first in the nation to begin to pick a president, and they take it very seriously.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry worked the room beforehand, shaking hands with everyone he could find regardless of whether they were wearing stickers for other candidates.

When Mr. Perry was shaking hands, he ran into Mike Everitt, a 47-year-old who was still undecided before the caucus began.

Mr. Everitt told Mr. Perry he was waiting for someone to step up and grab him, so Mr. Perry zeroed in.

“The best prediction of success is someone’s record,” he told Mr. Everitt, looking directly into his eyes. “I have a record of creating jobs. I didn’t create all of them, but I created the environment for them.”

In Manilla, in the western part of the state, Art Joens and wife Peggy hosted a caucus at their home, one of the few that still do it the old-fashioned way.

But with just a few minutes to go before they began, the caucus was all but empty.

“When I first got involved in the process, I would try to call all the neighbors to come to the caucus, and I finally concluded they really are going to come or they aren’t, and if there’s no interest to indicate their preference, they’ve lost an opportunity. It’s really that simple,” Mr. Joens said.

A few folks walked in just before 7 p.m., bringing the total to five — including the Joenses — when the caucuses began.

“This is embarrassing to me right here,” said Michael Nieland, waving at the sparse crowd.

“It’s a shock to me at how many people assume that who’s in power is going to take care of us,” he said. “So many people don’t pay attention anymore. It’s sad. They’re there to complain about things, but they’re not showing up when they have a chance to voice their statements.”

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