Left: Is Mike Huckabee the next president?
Well, you gotta start somewhere. And so, we begin in Iowa, the center of the country. The political playoffs start TONIGHT!
The vote is so close on BOTH sides that campaigns are openly offering baby-sitting, transportation and sandwiches for whoever comes out and stands up (literally) for their candidates. (Wouldn't that kind of accommodation be great for the GENERAL ELECTIONS, too?) The Iowa caucuses are actual meetings in which people must publicly vote for their favorites, not quietly disappear into a voting booth. This raises the stakes, considerably.
As Obama said recently, Iowa's up-close-and-personal vetting process gives voters a chance to look under the hood and kick the tires, so to speak. The people in Iowa get the longest and most in-depth opportunity to inspect presidential wannabes. If they don't know them, none of us do. Politico.com reports:
And as more than one pundit has recently commented, 80,000 votes is nothing in a place like Los Angeles or Manhattan. Yet, the people of Iowa are very savvy; they've been through it all before. For example, many will not "declare" at all, right up until the vote. They've seen candidates repeatedly blow it, like, the very day of the caucuses. Hidden scandals, clueless and/or stupid statements to the press, flared tempers, anything could tip the scales at this late hour. And they are watching.
In 1,781 precincts across the frigid face of Iowa, Republicans and Democrats start meeting in early evening — most caucuses start at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. EST) — to begin winnowing tightly bunched fields in both parties and start setting the contours of what is likely to be an unparalleled nomination sprint.
The candidates were up late — New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee showed up on late night television — and rose early for one last day of stump speeches and rallies designed to bolster the faithful and woo the undecided.
"I feel good, but it depends on who comes out, who decides to actually put on their coats, warm up their cars and go to the caucuses," Clinton said in a taped appearance on CBS’s "The Early Show."
About 120,000 to 150,000 people were expected to come to the Democratic caucuses and 80,000 to 90,000 to the GOP meetings.
The big news will be Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, possibly floating to victory on a fundamentalist Christian vibe and general evangelical adulation. Nothing seems likely to touch him right now. It's Wars of Religion on the right: Mormon Governor Mitt Romney vs. Baptist preacher Huckabee. Senator John McCain may throw a monkey wrench into the works, tapping some of the Republican Hawk vote.
On the left, the constantly-shifting polls show a near three-way tie, with Senator John Edwards mere percentage points behind Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Women have promised to come out for Hillary in droves, while the idealistic college kids are feverish for Obama. The working-class populists, traditional old-style Union Democrats, are solid behind Edwards.
Meanwhile, Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul, another wild card, may skim substantial libertarian, anti-war votes from both sides. And when it's this close, every single vote counts.
The playoffs! Can you FEEL the excitement!? Stay tuned, sports fans!
Listening to: Passions - I'm in Love With a German Film Star