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In Iowa caucuses, second-choice candidates still have a chance to win

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The Iowa caucus is the first test for US Democratic presidential candidates. The results are hard to predict for two reasons: voters indecision, and a caucus system that means they may have to go with their second choice.

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The Midwestern state of Iowa is home to some 3 million people, yet it has outsized importance because its caucus comes first in the presidential primary cycle.

An individual caucus is essentially a small local meeting in a school gym or community centre – known as a precinct – where neighbours and strangers show their support for a particular candidate by standing in groups and trying to persuade others to join them.

There are two rounds of voting in a caucus. In the first, the people attending gather in spaces that are designated for their preferred candidates. Any candidate who attracts 15 percent of the people present in the room is considered viable, and goes on to the next round.

People supporting candidates who do not meet the 15 percent threshold have four options: They can support a viable candidate, join with supporters of another non-viable candidate to boost them up to 15 percent, or try to woo supporters of other non-viable candidates over to their camp. Or they can simply go home.

Carol George is a precinct team member for former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “I was pro-Warren at the start but now I am for Buttigieg,” George said. She explains that if he does not get the 15 percent he needs in her precinct, she will go to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as her second choice.

Warrens programme is in many ways similar to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanderss, but that does not mean her supporters would pick Sanders as their second choice. Many of them told FRANCE 24 that they would prefer to support Buttigieg or Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar in a round two scenario.

That is the case for Mike Kaldenberg, who works in IT in Des Moines, Iowas capital. He is supporting Warren because he is “ready for a lady president” but would opt for Pete Buttigieg if Warren does not get a big enough group in round one in his precinct because, “[Buttigiegs] a former military person as well. I served 20 years in the Air Force. I trust his knowledge too.”

Special responsibility

The early date of the Iowa caucuses gives voters in the Hawkeye state a special responsibility.

"You are the most important people to America's future. For the next 24 hours plus, the world is watching what we do in the great state of Iowa," said the states former Governor Tom Vilsack at former vice president Joe Bidens final campaign rally in Des Moines ahead of the vote.

Iowa has 41 state delegates up for grabs in the contest. The winner gets a lot of media attention, but candidates do not have to come in first to gain momRead More – Source