Frequently asked questions about Iowa caucuses
Jan. 7, 2012 at 4 p.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2012 at 7:07 p.m.
Q. A little help here. Exactly what are the Iowa Caucuses?
A. The Iowa Caucuses is a method of choosing a presidential nominee. Held every four years. Usually in Iowa.
Q. Why is it so important?
A. No. 1 in the batting order. Opening stanza of an epic poem. The recorded preamble to the Republican Nomination Symphony is over, and the citizen orchestra is about to play.
A. Gentlemen, start your engines.
Q. What precisely happens?
A. Nobody knows. The process is sort of like musical chairs without the chairs. And no music.
Q. How did all this get started?
A. It began with early Iowans throwing small, round runic stones into hollowed-out stumps, which were placed atop huge cast iron kettles brimming with pig entrails - then the omens interpreted by a circle of community elders wearing ceremonial necklaces of hand-carved, stringed chestnuts.
Q. And when did it transform into the current method?
A. Actually, it's still pretty much the same.
Q. How is a caucus different than a primary?
A. At least the Republicans use a secret ballot to vote. Democrats don't vote, they attend. Then huddle with like-minded others in designated candidate corners, but if not enough people join your posse, your group is disbanded and everybody wanders around in search of a second or third choice. So supporters who corner the breath mint and deodorant market hold a huge advantage.
Q. Might there be worse ways in choosing a candidate than picking the one with the best smelling supporters?
A. Oh, yes, indeed. Look at North Korea.
Q. So you are allowed to change your vote?
A. No. Unless you plan to vote for Jon Huntsman. Then you are encouraged to.
Q. My good buddy Jon. How's he doing these days?
A. Little green around the gills. Polling around 1 percent with a margin of error of 4 percent. So he could very well end up owing Iowa a couple delegates.
Q. How believable are the polls?
A. Don't bet the farm. Iowans are a fierce, stubborn people. They don't call them Buckeyes or Hawkeyes or Hoosiers or whatever they call them for nothing, you know.
Q. What are you saying?
A. That folks in Iowa love to confound conventional wisdom by throwing in with the underdog. Can we say Ron Paul in a squeaker?
Q. Why Iowa?
A. Why not Iowa?
Q. No, I mean why does a state that Minnesotans make fun of, get to go first?
A. Who do you want to go first: Louisiana? California? Texas? American Samoa?
Q. Your point being?
A. At least Iowa is representative.
Q. Of white people.
A. In the form of a question, please.
Q. OK, how diverse is Iowa?
A. White, white, white, white, white, white, white. Whiter than a "Justin Bieber Christmas in Norway Special." Mashed potatoes on paper plates with a side of cauliflower white.
Q. And that's representative?
A. Of Republicans.
Q. Point taken. Who can participate?
A. Anybody who pre-registers as a Republican. And brings snacks.
Q. Does it cost anything to participate?
A. Just the tiniest piece of your soul.
Q. How are caucuses better than primaries?
A. Well, they're a whole lot more fun to say. Try it in a sentence: "I slipped on the ice and broke my caucuses."
Q. What happens in Iowa on Jan. 4 when the circus packs up and moves to New Hampshire?
A. Iowa radio stations will stop screaming about treason and hypocrisy and go back to hog futures and herbicidal ads - the way God intended.
Contact syndicated columnist Will Durst, Emmy-nominated comedian and writer, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.