Letter to the Editor

Caucus-opoly - 2016 Edition

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A new game, Caucus-opoly, is flying off the shelves in stores across Iowa. It's a typical 'opoly' game where players use favorite game pieces to advance around a board and compete to acquire property. All across the Hawkeye State, we hear discussions about this phenomenon. Ordinary Iowans have morphed into passionate players, each holding strong opinions about the next move.

Players must select a miniature game piece. The options are a young staffer with an ear bud, a constantly ringing telephone, a patriotically decorated tour bus, a TV with non-stop political ads or a biased talking head.

The dynasty pieces - Bush and Clinton - are coveted by some and disdained by others. Game developers considered another piece, the ballot, but decided it would be irrelevant since few players actually get that far.

The game begins by placing all pieces at the starting corner called The Feasibility Study. Players supposedly use this square to decide if they are going to play, but this is merely a formality as most will continue around the board and try to win the caucus vote.

Players throw dice to advance on the board and draw cards with positive or negative instructions that cast their fate. Cards drawn from the Endorsements and Experience pile help pieces advance around the board. These cards tell of positive campaign strategies such as PAC Funding, Appeared on Media Talk Show, Poll Numbers Up, or Announced Major Endorsement.

Setbacks always follow cards drawn from the Negative Ads and Scandals pile. Pulling a card from this stack may result in moving back several spaces or falling off the board entirely. A fate such as Lost Big Donor, Inexperienced in Foreign Affairs, Citizenship Questioned, or Private Fundraising Video Surfaces may spell disaster. Players always experience a setback after drawing either a Made Rude and Insulting Comment card or a Past Indiscretion Makes Headlines card. However, these are usually temporary because players benefit from the publicity and they advance even further if they draw a Voters Don't Care card.

While advancing around the board, players often land on the corner called The Latest Scandal. Pieces will remain trapped there until they draw a Voters Forget card. The third corner on the board, The Latest Spin, may direct players either forward or backward, depending on whether their team gets ahead of the media in countering a campaign gaffe. The final corner, Conflicting Poll Numbers, is the most difficult hurdle in the final lap to winning the game. Directions often confuse players as they make decisions based on unreliable polling data. Inaccurate poll numbers happen when Iowa caucus-goers, weary after a barrage of robocalls, choose not to answer their phones.

Acquiring property is the goal of all 'opoly' games, and Caucus-opoly is no exception. There are several lesser properties -- CNN Interview, Major Endorsement, SNL Skit, Video of Rabid Supporter Goes Viral -- but every player covets the premiere set: Minorities, Women, Evangelicals, and Independents. Any player that can get a solid lock on all four is almost certain to win. However, these properties are fickle and change allegiance often. It's nearly impossible for any player to possess all four of them at the same time.

Caucus-opoly is "yuuge" in Iowa this January. Most likely, the mania will peak with the statewide tournament on Feb. 1. Pundits predict Iowans will forget about the game after Feb. 2 and turn to their attention to high school basketball. Caucus-opoly, however, will continue to spread across the country. The next scheduled release is set for New Hampshire and South Carolina, rebranded with a new name, Primary-opoly.