From Marc Cooper of The Nation.
“I certainly support Sanders, unequivocally. That said, let me share my experience with other supporters. Do not mistake any of this news as definitive. I covered the 2004 and 2008 Democratic campaigns in Iowa (and the GOP in 1996 and 2000) and what you see on the ground does not always reflect the realities of voting and caucusing. In 2004, I got to Iowa about 10 days before the January caucus. At that moment, Howard Dean had already surged ahead of Kerry. Dean’s rallies were bursting in size and energy, drawing thousands of enthusiastic young people out in sub zero temperatures. Kerry’s events were small and funereal. In the last week of the campaign, the poll numbers reversed, Kerry took the lead, but all the VISIBLE energy was still with Dean. Kerry won. Dean supporters were younger, more engaged and certainly more enthusiastic. But the caucuses themselves were crammed with legions of older, quieter folks, and lots of union members mobilized by the Democratic establishment and it was all over for Dean. In 2008, all the enthusiasm and youth was with Obama (and Edwards who finished second). Hillary’s events were small and the audience always looked like they had been bussed in from rest homes. In this contest, the party establishment lost and Obama and Edwards finished ahead of Clinton. But what the 04 and 08 campaigns had in common was indisputable evidence that the supporters of the more establishment candidate were always much older, MUCH less inclined to rallies (especially in the Iowa winter!) and they did exactly what they were supposed to do… show up and vote.. or in the case of Iowa, caucus. I have no idea at this date if Sanders will lose like Dean or win like Obama in Iowa. I do know that no campaign or its supporters should judge its relative strength by rally size or early polls. And I also know that a year of campaigning one way or another can all go for naught in the last 96 hours before voting takes place. What matters is tight organization, enthusiastic mobilization, and a finely honed GOTV operation. Those of us who like Sanders should not underestimate the ominous but quiet reserves of supporters that somebody like Clinton has, the kind who don’t pay much attention to the campaign till a few days before the vote, who do not go to rallies and speeches but who just obediently and reliably VOTE. A lot of the conventional wisdom about campaigns and elections is being discredited so far this cycle and it remains quite unpredictable. Nothing should be taken for granted.”
However, caucuses do tend to favor the more motivated voters however. I remember Jesse Jackson shocking Dukakis in Michigan, but just couldn’t keep up the momentum with the Wisconsin primary. Dean had progressive support, but he didn’t generate that movement euphoria with progressives, and didn’t have union support (Sanders has some). I expect it will be more like an Obama win in Iowa. What worries me is that he wins in Iowa, and then New Hampshire, but hits a wall in South Carolina (as Hillary Clinton did in 08) because he hasn’t really made inroads with the black communities. He’s got time, but it can evaporate quickly.