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Iowa? Are you there?

The caucuses, hard to believe, are coming up Thursday. Anyone from Iowa on the CWL blog? Call in! Let us hear how it's going. Are you going to a caucaus? Are they sending a limo? Excitement building? Total exhaustion? Been a fascinating year? Can hardly wait for the outlanders to head for New Hampshire? Will look forward to doing the same for 2012?

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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As soon as my Holy Day of Obligation duties are finished tomorrow morning, I would love to escape to the Caucasus in order to escape the caucuses.

Fr. O'Neal. Does that make caucus goers caucasians?

Here in Dubuque, we are up to about 10 calls, 12 flyers, and 2 door-to-doors a day. I got two push polls with damaging info about Obama and Edwards just yesterday. All the majors candidates seem to be making a last stop in town (my personal favorite is Chris Dodds event, a midnight New Years Eve bash at Happys Place, a local bar, tonight). My kids, 6 and 8, are totally into it, since they have personally met several of the candidates over the last few months (I looked up at our Labor Day parade wondering who that man talking to my kids was, only to see it was Joe Biden), but my wife is about done with it all. As a political junkie, I am in heaven, but will be in a funk come Friday morning when we Iowans suddenly dont matter anymore.

Margaret: I'm glad that someone else finds humor in such plays on words. That type of thing has been a family tradition, so I guess I get it honestly.Did anyone else hear the NPR feature piece I heard yesterday with the Latin professor who etymologically explained why candidates are called "candidates"? Now that was wonderful!

I don't remember Iowa getting this much media coverage ever before, though, as David Brooks pointed out on the News Hour last night, the media was covering only the "celebrities," and the most experienced and inteesting candidates (at least on the Dem side)--Dodd, Biden and Richardson--remained ignored by the media.Anyway, a caucus actually sounds like something constructive and fun. Anybody actually go to one? What's it like? Do people argue? How many times did people have to regroup before the votes could be tallied?As I understand it, there's a formula whereby some candidates are excluded if they fail to get a certain percent of the vote, and people who supported those candidates have to choose up another side.Do tell!

Yes, do tell Iowa! Are you still sleeping out there? David Brooks, I guess he is now our favorite conservative columnist, has a good account of why Obama and Huckabee won in Friday's Times. Both choices are amazing, obviously for different reasons.

I went to my first caucus last night, even though I've been able to vote for over ---let's see---3 or 4 decades...(Yikes!)....anyway, my 18 year old son was going (for Obama) and I was undecided but had been impressesd over the years with Biden and Dodd. We went to Irving Elementary School and people were streaming in at 6:15, looking for their ward (or precinct---I'm not versed in these details). We were directed to the location for our precinct (the library) and when we went in there were 60 some people there, with supporters for a candidate congregated together. Hillary and Obama had the biggest groups, Edwards a smaller one. There were 3 people at a table with the Biden poster up. The organization of this caucus process was a bit lax. As we stood around waiting for the event to begin, my guitar teacher, a Biden supporter, walked in looking for the precinct listings. He wondered if I was supporting Biden and when I told him i was undecided he urged me to go Biden. He noted that BIden's plan to bring order to IRaq had passed the Senate. As we talked, a Richardson supporter came up asking if i would support Richardson. She needed more supporters to make Richardson viable. But since my guitar teacher (and colleague here at University of Northern Iowa) had found me, I took that as a sign (I'm hopelessly naive about political convictions!). Our precinct captain had just been asked to organize the caucus a few days ago. He had done this sort of things for years but had been absent for several more years, so he plodded along. When the real caucus began, we Biden supporters numbered 7. So supporters from the other candidates approached us asking us to join them. The man in our group who was use to caucusing went to the Hillary group to see if their extra people would join us to make us viable (we needed 12 supporters to get 15% of the number of supporters). One Obama guy asked me what issues i was concerned about. I had so many, i didn't know where to start. i said, "Iraq and education." he then went into a spiel about Obama's plans. Eventually I said, "who knows what he can do once he's in office. At this point, I think we need to keep up the exchange of ideas and so I'd rather join with another small group to make them viable.So we have 3 groups discussing things. I think the words we need to give us better understandig of our problems are yet to be expressed and will only be expressed if we discuss things." The Obama guy liked that. It ended up the Richardson people joined us and so Biden got one delegate for the county convention. I left with the impression that it is easy to get involved in politics---just go to a caucus. I could have become a county delegate. And you see all sorts of people there, grumpy children of God, rude children of God. Those precinct caucuses in more depressed areas must really be a revelation. One's patience would be tested, but i think you would have impressive expereinces of human solidarity and hope (and frustration). I tell students that their liberal education should be showing them how to be civic leaders. I better walk the walk more.

William Koch--Not being an Iowan, and being only superficially familiar with your state's caucus process, I enjoyed your on-the-ground report about the caucus session you attended. If the media reports are correct that the candidates who survived Iowa almost immediately moved on to New Hampshire, I'm betting many Iowans are feeling bittersweet today--relieved that they have their state back to themselves, but also like the bridegroom or bride who has been left at the altar.

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