In the Arena

Accordion Music

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Cedar Rapids

Tumulty and I are here, waiting for Hillary to speak, being serenaded by…accordion music. They just played “Roll Out the Barrel” which reminds me of Groundhog Day. But this day before the caucuses is like nothing I’ve ever seen before out here: no one has a clue about what’s going to happen tomorrow. A startling number of people who come to these events are still undecided, or so they say.

And it strikes me that among the plenitude of reasons not to take the caucus seriously–i.e. it’s not a secret ballot, it discriminates against people working the night shift etc etc–is this: The electorate out here has become professionalized. Over thirty years of these things, the caucus-going minority has become spoiled. They take themselves oh-so-seriously. Indeed, they’ve become a bunch of pundits…and you know how obnoxious that is. They don’t simply pick the candidate they like, they handicap the field, trying to judge–loathsome word—electability.
So I keep running into people who say, “I’d really like to vote for Biden, but he’s not electable, is he?” (Indeed, there’s a significant amount of subterranean Biden yearning out here.) Or, “Obama won’t do so well down South, will he, so maybe I better vote for X?” My response is, “You decide who’s electable by electing ‘em. Why not go with the candidate you like?” I should note that Biden has been getting crowds–400, 500 people–that would have been considered extraordinary in caucuses past. But the top three Democrats have been drawing twice that.

One reason Tumulty and I (and some friends) drove two hours to Cedar Rapids–one of my favorite places in Iowa–is to get away from the international press corps, which swarms every event in Des Moines. Here, over the next few hours in Linn County, we’ll get to see how actual Iowans react to Clinton, Romney (about whom I’ll have more to say in my print column) and Obama in a relatively humane setting. Will let you know how it all feels.

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