Student and community political leaders knew Super Tuesday’s Colorado caucus would see record numbers. But looking back, they realize that they had no idea how many people were going to show up Tuesday night.
Political analysts said in the days leading up to the largest primary in American history that more people would vote in most states than ever. But caucus organizers in both parties said they expected only a fraction of the increase they saw.
As rooms filled up, organizers for caucus venues across Larimer County had to push voters out into hallways and other rooms.
“Caucuses in 2004 were . at least in my precinct there were like ten people,” said Adam Bowen, president of the Larimer County Democrats. “This time we had 146 . I was thinking maybe 5,000 would be a good number and we wound up with nearly double that” in the county.
Chelsey Penoyer, president of the CSU College Republicans, said her first caucus was much more crowded than she expected it to be.
“We were all crammed into this itty bitty cafeteria,” she said. “Many more people showed up than they were prepared for,” she said.
Reasons cited for why the political climate was so much thicker than in the past were many.
A representative of the Larimer County GOP said the media frenzy surrounding the 2008 election played a big part in the large turnout.
“I think because of all the attention that Super Tuesday got from the media, it made people aware of the caucus process,” said Kristin Gravier, internal vice chairperson for Lrimer Republicans. “Many people have not been informed about the process in the past. A lot of people didn’t even know it existed.”
She said 5,556 Republicans caucused this year in Larimer County.
Byron Moore, a Liberal Arts senator with the Associated Students of CSU and volunteer with the Barack Obama campaign, said the race would be close between the two Democratic contenders and students showed up in droves because they need to elect the one they felt would bring the most change.
“One thing that’s weird right now is you have two very ardent parts of the Democratic party fighting it out right now,” Moore said. “You have women and the Black vote, who have been the main stakes of Democratic party really duking it for their respective candidate.”
But he said it was the youth vote’s strong desire for idealistic change that won his candidate the vote Friday night.
“The crown jewel for Barack Obama’s campaign right now is the youth vote,” he said. “It’s not about erasing the last administration, it’s about taking the next step.”
Bowen said another factor in the large turnout is the aggressiveness of the campaigns.
“The candidates really tried hard to get people out there, so that’s what really made the numbers very big,” he said.
News Editors Erik Myers and Aaron Hedge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.