Slate's chief political correspondent, John Dickerson, is reporting from Iowa this week in advance of the Jan. 3 caucuses. He'll also be filing Twitter updates and dispatches about life on the road. You can also follow his travels on the map below. Also, check out John's past travels in Iowaand New Hampshire and all the candidates' whereabouts on " Map the Candidates."
Jan. 2, 2008
Coralville, Iowa, 3 p.m. CT: In 2000, when John McCain was doing so well in New Hampshire, you could feel it in the crowds he was getting. When he attended one of his last events in Peterboro, it seemed like the entire state showed up. Everyone seemed to know that day that he was going to win. (It's also possible we realized it in retrospect and just claim we knew it at the time.) When McCain beat Bush by 17 points, it was fueled by the enthusiasm we all saw at those rallies. So, am I witnessing that moment for Barack Obama now in Iowa City, where he is facing a crowd three times the size of Hillary Clinton's last night?
This is a college town, so it's Obama's strength, but boy, does he have strength here. He asks those planning to caucus to hold up their hands. Three-quarters of the room does so. He asks which of them will be caucusing for the first time, and a huge number raise their hands. This is the big question about the Obama campaign. Can he turn out the first-time voters? Judging by the reception here he sure seems to be on his way.
It's amazing what a good Des Moines Register poll will do for you, but it's also apparently showing up in the campaign's phone calls and canvassing of neighborhoods. "All the signs are good," says a senior aide who should be lowering expectations.
Obama is feeling very good about things. He's using slang like "up in here" and "that's what I'm taking about." He's cracking jokes and smiling like he won't win if he stops. This is not the meandering performance I saw last Thursday night. Some aide is going to walk in on him doing the happy dance when he thinks he's not being watched. (permalink)
Iowa City, Iowa, 5 a.m. CT: It is very early and extremely cold. The wind chill makes it feel like it's 15 degrees below zero. I am at the Hamburg Inn No. 2 diner appearing on CNN's American Morning for a couple of hours. In addition to punditry, I had to figure out how to explain the Iowa caucus system using the condiments on the table. After my appearances I mentioned to CNN host John Roberts that he might want to ask Romney, who was going to appear in the last hour of the show, about that line I heard at yesterday's Romney events. Which of his rivals was he talking about when he said he and his wife wouldn't embarass America? Roberts asked him and Romney, after first saying that he wasn't talking about anyone in specific, then proceeded to ding the Clintons.(permalink)
Jan. 1, 2008
Iowa City, Iowa, 10:45 p.m. CT: The ballroom is packed at the Sheraton for Hillary Clinton. This is an Obama-sized crowd, and it spills into the hallway. She's campaigning with Chelsea, who looks on adoringly and with that kind of engaged look parents take on when they watch their kids perform. The speech is the best I've seen from Hillary—personal and funny, and it makes her case for change, which she's had some trouble doing. At one point she jokes that the Bush administration craziness had her yelling at the television and then delivered in perfect shticky-speak said: "I mean, the vice president shot a guy." It's been a brutal and long day, as they all are for her, and yet she speaks passionately for an hour without notes. Too bad for her that she wasn't giving this speech a month ago. (permalink)
Pleasant Hill, Iowa, 3:55 p.m. CT: I'm at another Romney house party. The speech is roughly the same. The house is nearly identical. Candles, garlands, framed sayings on the walls, and those bathroom towels that look too precious to use to wipe your hands.