Obama puts hope on first-time caucus goers

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSaagar Enjeti rips Buttigieg for praising Obama after misquote Steyer scores endorsement from key New Hampshire activist Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism MORE (D-Ill.) is hoping that first-time caucus attendees will push him over the edge Thursday night and deliver a victory in the Iowa caucus.

The senator has made it part of his stump speech to quiz those flocking to see him if they are caucus novices, and a great number of hands shoot up when Obama asks the audiences at his campaign events if they will participate in the caucuses for the first time.

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If the most recent poll by The Des Moines Register is to be believed, an Obama win here would largely happen on the backs of these first-time caucus goers and self-described independents. The senator is making no secret of his effort to target those first-timers who do not traditionally turn out reliable support.

“The most important thing is for you to caucus and especially for you first-timers,” Obama said.

The Register poll showed Obama leading Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) 32 percent to 25 percent to 24 percent among the Democratic candidates. That is the Illinois senator’s largest lead here.

But both Edwards and Clinton, along with many pundits, were skeptical of the poll because 60 percent of the respondents said this would be their first caucus. 72 percent of those said they are supporting Obama.

At a crowded event, after Obama identified the first-time caucus goers by a show of hands, he said the campaign now has them “in our sights.”

“We’re coming after you,” he said.

Obama acknowledged that most pundits look skeptically upon the untested first-timers who, in the past, have shunned the caucus system because it is confusing or because the temperatures are well below freezing.

“So the question is, are you going to prove them wrong?” Obama said.

He returned to the subject later in his stump speech, indicating how much his hope for a convincing win in Iowa might depend on voters who have not been dependable in earlier contests.

“A bunch of pundits right now are incredulous because they can’t believe there are all these independents out there,” he said. “I know you’re out there.”

Tim Boyle, an Obama organizer who introduced the candidate to the crowd in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, said he is hopeful first-timer and independents do come out because “they could really be the difference.”

Boyle acknowledged that the race is “tight as a drum,” but he thinks Obama can still win without a big infusion of new caucus-goers and independents. This, however, is “going to be tight though.”

“If only some of these newcomers show up, it’s going to be significant,” he said.

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), who has endorsed Obama, told The Hill after the event that he is hearing from a number of independents and Republicans who say they are going to caucus for Obama.
“I have to believe they’re going to come out,” Loebsack said.

But can Obama win if they stay home?

“That I don’t know,” Loebsack said.