Is this hell? No, it's Iowa: The Iowa caucuses are Tuesday, and all candidates are engaged last-minute campaign blitzes to try to win that precious thing: inflated press mutterings about their chances in New Hampshire. Obama leads Clinton, according to the Des Moines Register; John Edwards has John Mellencamp stumping for him; Huckabee's on Leno tonight; and Romney's spent a bundle.
Liberal Todd Beeton at MyDD contrasts Iowans' choice of Kerry in '04 with their likely choice of Obama in '08: "So if Iowa does choose Obama tomorrow night and reject Clinton's experience as electability frame, will that mean Iowa voters have suddenly repudiated their tendency toward the electable? Hardly. Rather, it will simply be a rejection of the Clinton definition of electability."
Former journalist EricBlack Ink puts the Hawkeye State in perspective: "Historically, fewer than 10 percent of eligible Iowans caucus. In all likelihood, Thursday turnout might approach or exceed 200,000, which would set an Iowa record. But caucus attendees will still comprise much less than 1 tenth of one 1 of the U.S. population. The Iowa result doesn't have to have any more impact on the other 49 states than the media and the non-Iowa electorate choose to give it."
But some, like Andrew Sullivan, dig the caucus: "If Clinton wins, her opponents will at least be reassured that we were able to put all the bad stuff on the table, prevent an unexamined rush to a coronation, and air the salient issues (with the sole and understandable exception of her husband's potential bimbo eruptions). If Obama wins, the question of his relative newness to national life will have been throughly aired. Even the slick Romney machine has been laid bare - and the real Rudy revealed. These are good things." And Philip Weiss takes aim at Slate's cover story by Jeff Greenfield in defending Iowa against the "elitist" East Coast media establishment: "The Iowa process is completely transparent and charming. It is quirky. Again, if you have the gumption, you get to play your part. And the people who take part are highly informed and willing to dig their cars out of the snow, etc. That's the sort of elitism I like: a democratic elite. I wonder what kind of lazy Walmart-sized referendum Greenfield would replace Iowa with, and how much power the big media would have over such a process?"
Some mainstream outlets have their correspondents blogging from snowy Iowa. At TNR's Stump, Michael Crowley talked with a local Clinton organizer who "has dubbed his job 'The Great Granny Getout.' A major headaches is the number of committed Hillary caucusers who report last-minute hip injuries, missing walkers, and other mishaps and maladies. Noting that Obama did so well in the Des Moines Register poll because it assumed a very high (40 percent) turnout of independents, he wondered if the fact that indies have to register as Democrats before they caucus might raise any complications on that front." Bill Kristol, the editor in chief of the Weekly Standard, has advice for John McCain at the magazine's Campaign Standard: "to make sure his criticism of Romney doesn't seem simply to echo the liberal media's, or isn't perceived by GOP primary voters as simply echoing the liberal media's. McCain shouldn't attack Romney for his new-found conservative positions, but for his old liberal ones: When McCain was supporting Reagan in the 80s, where was Romney? When McCain was fighting Hillary's health care plan in the 90s, where was Romney? And, as he's now arguing, when McCain was supporting the surge earlier this year, where was Romney?" (In Slate, follow John Dickerson around Iowa.)
Meanwhile, John Edwards, who has been on a 36-hour nonstop tour of the state, gave an interview to the New York Times about his plans for Iraq: a near-full withdrawal of troops within 10 months. Max Boot at Commentary's Contentions can't decide whether to be dismissive or incensed: "Of course it's unlikely that Edwards will ever occupy the White House. But he is one of the top three Democratic presidential candidates, so what he says is worth considering. And what he is saying is essentially what Democrats have been saying for the last couple of years. To wit: 'I have never believed that there was a military solution in Iraq, don't believe it today. I think the issue is how do you maximize the chances of achieving a political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia because I think that political reconciliation is the foundation for any long-term stability in Iraq.' "
Mike Huckabee had an interesting moment yesterday. He decided at the last minute to pull an attack ad against his rival Mitt Romney, but then staged a press conference explaining this decision and also airing the ad for reporters. Mark Hemingway at National Revew Online's Corner thinks the stunt backfired: "[T]his shows the Huck camp's basic problem. They are a shoestring organization that has struggled to put together a cohesive strategy. Further, Huck's flighty campaign style — as evidenced by the stunt yesterday — does not lend itself to a disciplined campaign. For weeks, I've been hearing that if Iowa was at all close, Romney would probably pull out the victory because his ground organization there was so good."
Read more about the Iowa caucuses. In Slate, Christopher Hitchens calls the caucuses undemocratic, and Jeff Greenfield explains why they suppress turnout. John Dickerson won't let Mike Huckabee off the hook for his strange attempt to get the media to air his anti-Romney ads, and he tags along with Edwards supporters on a hunt for undecided caucus-goers.