In the Arena

3 Days Till Iowa: Waiting for the Register

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Today’s most important event won’t happen until 7 p.m. tonight when the Des Moines Register publishes its final Iowa caucus poll. Normally, I wouldn’t place this much importance on a poll, but the Register’s is an exception, traditionally the most nuanced and accurate of all such surveys. In 2008, for example, it predicted an Obama victory based on a prospective turnout of 230,000, which more than a few political pros thought was crazy: they figured the ceiling was a higher-than-usual turnout of 160,000. But the Register’s home-grown pollster sensed the intensity correctly. This time, I look to the Register for a more accurate accounting of the Ron Paul phenomenon than we’ve been getting in recent polls–although how it’s going to be able to predict the number of new voters, independents and stray democrats who are going to show up for Paul is well beyond me. 

My gut tells me that Romney is moving toward closing the deal. Iowans tend to sample all the dishes on the table, but they are also very hip to the media coverage: there’s been too much talk about Iowa’s irrelevance this time and they want to keep batting leadoff, so there may be a slight, subconscious tug toward behaving themselves. If so, I suspect they’ll follow the right-wing talk radio trend of recent days and say, ok, Romney’s not terrible, he’s plausible and none of the others is the perfect right-wing package. But what do I know? Those of us who are foolish enough to prophesize results deserve the opprobrium that inevitably accompanies our lack of prescience.

Still, part of what leads me to toward the sense of Romney Rising is this story, which chronicles the current loserly backbiting in the Rick Perry campaign. Perry has been slightly bouyant in these final days, because of his tv and radio advertising–but it is very difficult for him to overcome the idiot buffoon image he so carefully cultivated in the debates. For which we should all be grateful. The man is a dangerous dunce, the purest expression of the Koch Brothers, extraction-industries, intolerant Christianist worldview. If Perry flops on Tuesday,  the forces of sanity will have something to be thankful for at the beginning of 2012–a year that will probably test everyone’s patience.

For now, I bid you a happier New Year, filled with green economic shoots, more jobs, less war, more compassion accompanied by greater rigor about the unintended consequences of our attempts to help those who need it, and a firm appreciation of the responsibilities that accompany the individual rights that this crop of Republican candidates have been so adamant about “restoring.” And more sanity and more fun, too.