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    What's the difference between a primary and a caucus?

    The Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary was the first primary in the 2012 presidential race. It followed the Iowa caucus, but represents different political skills than a caucus; we'll discuss the differences below.

    Mitt Romney won both Iowa and N.H. (statistics below) and now has 20 delegates. Rick Santorum has 12 delegates from Iowa but gained none in N.H.; Ron Paul & Jon Huntsman gained their first few delegates each.

    Primaries differ substantially from caucuses. The key differences, and their political implications, are:

    • Fewer people vote in caucuses than in primaries. In the Iowa caucus, 122,000 people voted; in the New Hampshire primary, 248,000 people voted. Iowa is a larger state than New Hampshire (3.1 million people vs. 1.3 million in N.H.). Expressed in percentage of people voting, Iowa had 4% participation, while N.H. had 19% participation, nearly five times more.

    • Caucuses require publicly announcing your vote; primaries have secret ballots. Your neighbors in you voting district know for whom you vote; and therefore people only attend who are willing to declare publicly for a candidate.

    • Because fewer people participate in caucuses, and because they require publicly announcing support, the attendees "self-select" as those who are the most fervent supporters of their candidate. Therefore, a caucus measures fervency (depth) of support, as opposed to a primary measuring a larger cross-section (breadth) of support.

    • Primaries take place in the usual voting place as in the general election, and take place all day (voters can go at the time of their choosing). Caucuses take place at odd locations -- sometimes public places like schools; sometimes in people's livingrooms -- and at odd times -- you must show up at the appointed time or you cannot participate.

    • Because of the restrictions on time and place, participants must be informed beforehand, and persuaded to attend. The major task for campaigns in caucuses is to inform their supporters and arrange their attendance. In contrast, the the major task in primaries is to keep track of which supporters have voted earlier in the day, so those who have not voted can be contacted later.

    • Because there a caucus requires more specific information and more simultaneous work, caucuses require far more volunteers working than do primaries. Hence caucuses measure a campaign's "organizational ability" -- its ability to organize thousands of volunteers to contact many more thousand potential supporters.

    • A campaign's organizational ability does not necessarily require money -- it requires volunteer labor. Primaries, on the other hand, with wider participation, is more amenable to broadcasting -- in other words, spending money on TV ads, radio appearances, and so on -- that makes money much more important in primaries than word-of-mouth met in caucuses.
    That outlines the key differences so citizens can understand when the pundits talk about caucuses. To indicate the importance of those differences, note that Barack Obama won dozens of state caucuses in 2008 while Hillary Clinton won just one caucus (New Mexico). Obama had supporters who were more fervent and more organized -- even early on when Hillary had more money.

    So, Romney won the Iowa caucus AND the N.H. primary -- and hence is the clear frontrunner. Here is the popular vote count, and the delegate vote count, from the New Hampshire primary:

    Candidate Popular Vote Delegate Count
    Mitt Romney 97,532 7
    Ron Paul 56,848 3
    Jon Huntsman 41,945 2
    Newt Gingrich 23,411 0
    Rick Santorum 23,362 0
    Rick Perry 1,766 0
    Michele Bachmann 349 0

    We presented a table with our analysis of the Iowa caucus, showing each state's delegate counts. Below is the same table, adding in whether each state holds a caucus or a primary (and their dates). When the South Carolina primary comes up, we'll explain "Winner takes all" versus "Proportional"!

    State Election Type Election Date District Delegates At-Large Delegates Total Delegates
    Alabama Two-winners-take-all Primary 3/13 21 26 50
    Alaska Proportional Caucus 3/6 3 21 27
    Arizona Winner-take-all Primary 2/28 27 28 29 *
    Arkansas Proportional Primary 5/22 12 21 36
    California District-winner-take-all Primary 6/5 159 10 172
    Colorado Proportional Caucus 2/7 21 12 36
    Connecticut District-winner-take-all Primary 4/24 15 10 28
    Delaware Winner-take-all Primary 4/24 3 11 17
    Florida Winner-take-all Primary 1/31 81 15 50 *
    Georgia Two-winners-take-all Primary 3/6 42 31 76
    Hawaii Proportional Caucus 3/13 6 11 20
    Idaho Proportional Caucus 3/6 6 23 32
    Illinois Proportional Primary plus Bonus 3/20 54 12 69
    Indiana District-winner-take-all Primary 5/8 27 16 46
    Iowa Proportional Caucus 1/3 12 13 28
    Kansas Proportional Caucus 4/24 12 25 40
    Kentucky Proportional Primary 5/22 18 24 45
    Louisiana Proportional Primary and Caucus 3/24 18 25 46
    Maine Proportional Caucus 2/4 6 15 24
    Maryland District-winner-take-all Primary 4/3 24 10 37
    Massachusetts Proportional Primary 3/6 27 11 41
    Michigan Two-winners-take-all Primary 2/28 42 14 30 *
    Minnesota Proportional Caucus 2/7 24 13 40
    Mississippi District-winner-take-all Primary 3/13 12 25 40
    Missouri Proportional Caucus 3/17 24 25 52
    Montana Winner-take-all Primary 6/14 3 20 26
    Nebraska Primary plus Caucus 7/14 9 23 35
    Nevada Proportional Caucus 2/4 12 13 28
    New Hampshire Proportional Primary 1/10 6 14 12 *
    New Jersey Winner-take-all Primary 6/5 36 11 50
    New Mexico Proportional Primary 6/16 9 11 23
    New York District-winner-take-all Primary 4/24 81 11 95
    North Carolina Proportional Primary 5/8 39 13 55
    North Dakota Proportional Caucus 3/6 3 22 28
    Ohio District-winner-take-all Primary 3/6 48 15 66
    Oklahoma District-winner-take-all Primary 3/6 15 25 43
    Oregon Proportional Primary 5/15 15 10 28
    Pennsylvania Proportional Primary plus Bonus 4/24 54 15 72
    Rhode Island Proportional Primary 4/24 6 10 19
    South Carolina District-winner-take-all Primary 1/21 21 26 25 *
    South Dakota Proportional Primary 6/5 3 22 28
    Tennessee District-winner-take-all Primary 3/6 27 28 58
    Texas Proportional Primary 4/3 108 44 155
    Utah Winner-take-all Primary 6/26 12 25 40
    Vermont District-winner-take-all Primary 3/6 3 11 17
    Virginia District-winner-take-all Primary 3/6 33 13 49
    Washington District-winner-take-all Primary 3/3 30 10 43
    West Virginia Winner-take-all Primary plus Caucus 5/8 9 19 31
    Wisconsin District-winner-take-all Primary 4/3 24 15 42
    Wyoming Proportional Caucus 3/6 3 23 29
    DC/Territories Mixed Primaries plus Caucuses 2/25 thru 4/3 0 60 78
    TOTAL     1305 956 2286

    For additional information (in GREATLY more detail than this summary!) see: http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P12/R-Alloc.phtml Or read about the South Carolina primary next week....
    -- Summary by Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, Jan. 12, 2012.





    Candidates' Issue Pages:
    Incumbents:
    Pres.Barack Obama
    V.P.Joe Biden
    GOP Candidates:
    Rep.Newt Gingrich(GA)
    Gov.Jon Huntsman(UT)
    Rep.Thaddeus McCotter(MI)
    Rep.Ron Paul(TX)
    Gov.Rick Perry(TX)
    Gov.Buddy Roemer(LA)
    Gov.Mitt Romney(MA)
    Sen.Rick Santorum(PA)

    Third Party Candidates:
    Gov.Gary Johnson(NM, Libertarian)
    Jill Stein(MA, Green)
    Mayor Johnson Anderson(UT, Justice Party)
    GOP Withdrawals:
    Rep.Michele Bachmann(MN)
    Herman Cain(GA)
    Gov.Haley Barbour(MS)
    Gov.Chris Cristie(NJ)
    Mayor Rudy Giuliani(NYC)
    Gov.Mike Huckabee(AR)
    Gov.Bobby Jindal(LA)
    Gov.Sarah Palin(AK)
    Gov.Tim Pawlenty(MN)
    Donald Trump(NY)