- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

URBANDALE, Iowa — Even a personal visit by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry just an hour before the caucus voting began yesterday wasn’t enough to win the most delegates out of Urbandale Precinct No. 1.

With his voice failing, Mr. Kerry walked through the Urbandale High School cafeteria whispering thanks and signing campaign signs for supporters. But by the time precinct caucus Chairman Jim Ensign announced the final totals, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had the most support among the 142 Iowans who made up the caucus last night.

But that only became clear after about 20 minutes of jockeying and vote-trading that are the hallmark of the Democratic Iowa caucuses.

At exactly 7 p.m., Mr. Ensign gaveled the caucus to order and, after disposing of basic business, told the voters to stand in groups based on which candidate they supported.

Democrats in Iowa employ a “viability” standard, which means that if any candidate doesn’t gain at least 15 percent of the vote in a precinct, his supporters have to disband and either join another candidate’s group or go home.

That ruled out Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, who had only 10 supporters, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich’s six backers and Wesley Clark, who had one supporter. The Rev. Al Sharpton and Sen. Joe Lieberman had no supporters in the Urbandale caucus.

Five minutes later, after a plea from Lyle Canceco, a 27-year-old political operative from Seattle who came to Iowa to be a precinct captain for Mr. Edwards, Mr. Kucinich’s supporters joined the Edwards group.

Meanwhile, most of the Gephardt supporters joined Mr. Kerry’s supporters.

“None of the others had the experience necessary to be president,” said Jim Cacciatore, one of the Gephardt-to-Kerry switchers.

But it wasn’t enough to carry the win.

In the final count, 53 persons stood for Mr. Edwards, 52 persons stood for Mr. Kerry and 34 persons stood for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. The precinct was allotted seven delegates to the county caucuses, and those vote totals translated into three delegates for Mr. Edwards, two for Mr. Kerry and two for Mr. Dean.

“Edwards kicked Kerry’s butt,” one woman called over to reporters.

John Sachs showed up about half an hour early to register as a Democrat. The 52-year-old production-line planner said he’d been a Republican for the past six years and had caucused for Arizona Sen. John McCain in his challenge to George W. Bush in 2000, but said there was no way he could support President Bush this year.

“I was not very happy with Mr. Bush and the Bush dynasty,” Mr. Sachs said before he voted in Precinct 2 on the other side of the cafeteria from Precinct 1. “He’s taken the country in the wrong direction.”

Mr. Sachs initially had leaned toward Mr. Dean, but in the end supported Mr. Kerry as the man with the best chance to beat Mr. Bush. “It came down to the electability issue, and he supported a lot of the things I was looking for,” he said.

While Democrats were hashing out their nominee, Republicans from 11 precincts in Urbandale were in another part of the high school holding their own caucuses, where Mr. Bush was unopposed.


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