The chair of the Iowa Republican Party said Michigan Republicans would have challenges if they ditch a primary for an Iowa-style caucus election.
“It’s not an easy task to undertake,” said Matt Strawn, chairman of the Iowa GOP that hosts the first in the nation caucuses Tuesday.
Michigan Republicans opted for a Feb. 28 primary to nominate the GOP presidential candidate to challenge President Obama. But the decision wasn’t without challenge, as some libertarian and tea party activists pushed for a caucus during the state convention last summer.
Michiganians are accustomed to primaries which are run by local election clerks and funded by the state of Michigan. (The 2008 primary cost $10 million.) Polls are open all day, votes are cast in private and the time commitment can be a matter of minutes.
The Iowa caucuses are run and funded by the Democratic and Republican parties, with the costs largely bore by county branches. The volunteer local chairmen reserve the precinct locations (1,774 GOP sites throughout Iowa), recruit volunteers to work the caucuses and count local results. The state GOP is charged with the vote tabulation system and reporting the results.
In Iowa, voters gather statewide at 7 p.m. and stay for upwards of two hours for the presidential poll and county party business. Turnout is relatively small — about 120,000 Republicans in 2008 — and represent the most committed party members.
“It’s an incredibly heavy lift,” said Strawn, who is knowledgeable of Michigan as the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers of Brighton.
The challenge in Michigan would be greater with a population of nearly 10 million compared to Iowa’s 3 million and educating voters to the process, he said.
Some tea party and liberation groups who favored candidates such as U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, pushed in August for a convention or caucus believing a local process would be more favorable for grassroots activism, whereas a primary appeals to a broad spectrum of voters and would favor Mitt Romney. Ultimately the 120-member GOP governing committee favored the traditional primary.
If Michigan’s GOP should ever opt for a caucus, Strawn says plan far in advance.
“If you do it, you want to make sure you do it right,” Strawn said.