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The Gazette KCRG
Posted January 3, 2012
What’s Ahead Jan. 3: Linn GOP throws out ’08 plans for caucuses to make room for greater turnout

Putting on the caucuses should be easy, right.

Just pull out the plan from four years ago and update it, right.

Eric Rosenthal

That’s not the case at all in Linn County where Republican “location coordinator” Eric Rosenthal threw out the 2008 plan and started over when making plans for 86 precinct caucuses.

Rather than “co-locate” caucuses at so-called super-sites as the party did in 2008, Rosenthal, a former Linn County GOP chairman, tried to find separate locations for each precinct.

That’s because he’s expecting higher turnout than in 2008.

“We expect at least two dozen precincts will have 200-plus people show up,” Rosenthal said. The largest turnouts are expected at Kennedy High School and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on the outskirts of northeast Cedar Rapids where two precincts will caucus.

At the other end of the spectrum, Rosenthal expects Prairieburg in northeast Linn County to have one of the smaller turnouts. Republicans will meet in the fire department.

“If it gets crowded, they’ll pull the trucks out,” he said.

At least there wasn’t a basketball game at the firehouse.

On Tuesday nights, many schools are hosting games, so the gymnasiums weren’t available for caucuses, Rosenthal explained. Four years ago, the caucuses were on a Thursday night.

Still, he speculated that basketball may put a damper on attendance. Many parents might opt to see their sons and daughters in action on the hard-court rather than attend their caucuses.

Their absence might be offset by members of the Occupy movement, he said. He doesn’t know whether any will show up at Republican caucuses, but Rosenthal said their welcome to participate.

“We’re open to everyone who wants to register as a Republican,” he said, adding that the goal of the caucuses is to “empower neighborhoods.”

“If you want to make a splash, you have to get involved,” Rosenthal said. “You don’t see results by dipping your toe in the water,” he said. “You have to dive in and swim a few laps.”

In finding locations for caucuses, Rosenthal not only made sure there would be ample room inside the facilities, but counted parking spaces, too.

Jim Conklin

Rosenthal and Jim Conklin, another former county chairman, estimate attendance could range between 11,000 and 15,000 or as much as 40 percent to 50 percent higher than 2008.

Rosenthal wants to avoid a repeat of 2008 when some Republicans couldn’t find parking at their caucus site, so they went home.

“There were hundreds if not thousands of people that we didn’t have room for,” he said.

Although he’s been concentrating on the preparations, Rosenthal has a few thoughts about the outcome. He thinks the old “three tickets out of Iowa” rule won’t apply. The 2012 race remains highly competitive.

“Even those that are supposed to be ‘out of it’ are extremely organized on the ground,” he said.

There could be four or five “winners” on caucus night.

“Then we’ll just have to wait and see how the results are interpreted in New Hampshire,” Rosenthal said.

On the calendar:

Jan. 3

Mitt Romney, 7:55 a.m., Temple for the Performing Arts, Des Moines, TBA; 5 p.m., doors open for caucus night event, Hotel Fort Des Moines

Ron Paul, 10:45 a.m., Rock the Caucus, Valley High School, West Des Moines; 7 p.m., caucus night rally, Courtyard, Ankeny

Rick Perry, 1 p.m., Principal Financial Group employee town hall, Des Moines; 7 p.m., caucus night event, Sheraton West, West Des Moines

Michele Bachmann, 9:45 a.m., Rock the Caucus, Valley High School, West Des Moines; 5:30 p.m., Black Hawk County GOP Super-Site, UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls; 8 p.m., caucus night, Marriott Grand Ballroom, West Des Moines

Newt Gingrich, 9 a.m., Elly’s Tea Room, Muscatine; 11:30 a.m., Drake Hotel, Burlington; 6 p.m., Black Hawk County GOP Super-Site, UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls; 10 p.m., caucus party, Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center, Grand Ballroom B, Iowa Events Center, Des Moines




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