Barb Hansen tallies votes during a caucus of precinct 42 near Smithland, Iowa Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum shared the straw poll ballot with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in a caucus race as jumbled as any in the 40 years since Iowa gained the presidential campaign lead-off position. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)
Chicago politics is a brand unto itself.
So is Iowa politics.
Jenel Nels, a recent transplant to Iowa, got to see both processes up close and personal. This former Chicago television news producer participated her first Iowa Caucus Tuesday night.
“Iowa is easier than Chicago Politics,” said Nels, who watched as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ascended to power seat of Chicago just a scant 12-months ago. "I found it to be really interesting."
Chicago's process is highly impersonal. Go to a booth, pull a lever, hope your vote is tallied.
In Iowa, it's highly personal.
"There was nothing confidential," she said. People participating in the Caucus just marked a "X" by the name of the candidate they wanted and passed the sheet to the end of the row.
Nels caucused in a gymnasium in Le Claire, Iowa, and voted Ron Paul who lost by 5 votes to Mitt Romney.
It could have gone a lot of ways, because in Iowa, voters get to argue for their man.
Nels said that a young boy, who she believed wasn't older than 12, stood up for Rick Santorum. The youngster told a story about how he wanted his parents to vote for the Pennsylvania conservative.
"He said Rick Santorum was the only one that looked him in the eye and gave him real answers as if he wasn't a little kid," despite his plea, he didn't move the needle in Santorum's favor.
Four others spoke on behalf of their candidates. Three of the speakers came prepared with typed out notes, the forth was a voter who gave an impromptu plea for Rick Perry support.
"It was a lot of older people ... mainly middle class workers," she said.
Once everyone had said their peace, each of the nearly 200 people in the gymnasium marked a piece of paper that contained the names of all the candidates.
"I went to the caucus torn between two candidates," Nels said. "One of those speeches before the vote actually swayed my opinion. I just thought to myself, can you imagine the scene if people spoke at an election hall during an election in Chicago?"