Joe the Optimist
For Biden, hope springs eternal.
Updated Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007, at 10:45 AM
Boozers for Barack: Who knew that Barack Obama could find allies in college drinkers? There's a fascinating showdown in Iowa over underage bar laws that could, possibly maybe, end up affecting the presidential election.
Residents of Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, have submitted a ballot measure that would kick anyone under 21 out of the city's bars after 10 p.m. That might sound reasonable in most cities. But currently anyone 19 and over can hang out at Iowa City bars—although they still can't (technically) drink till they're 21. Community members concerned about the neighborhood's safety and appearance are backing the ordinance. On the other side, you've got students looking to defend their right to drink cranberry juice and ginger ale in bars. The measure appears on the ballot Nov. 6.
As voting day approaches, both sides are mobilizing. A group called Citizens Against Students Ruining Downtown staged a "vomit walk" Sunday night to protest the sullying of the neighborhood. Health advocates are also pushing the ordinance since they say it would cut down on binge drinking.
Students are likewise miffed. At the University of Iowa, Republicans and Democrats alike have been conducting nonpartisan voter registration drives and setting up voting stations in the residence halls. Even students at other schools, many of whom travel to Iowa City to drink, are speaking out. The result, if the organization effort works, is that more young people than usual will be registered to vote in Iowa on Nov. 6. And that means more young people registered in time for the caucuses.
This could be good news for Obama. In the past few elections, most Iowa caucus-goers have been older than 50. But this time around, Obama's campaign is putting special emphasis on young people, organizing high school groups called "BarackStars" and urging college students to register. So far, Obama's Iowa ground organization outmatches that of his opponents. If he's able to get a boost from the Iowa City party scene, bully for him.
Tom Koos gets it. He knows that a 41-year old facilities manager from California isn't going to win the Democratic nomination. He understands it's unlikely he'll even earn a delegate in New Hampshire, where he'll only campaign for a week before the primary. But he's not running for president to become president. He's running so he can figure out who to vote for.
Koos has wanted to become president since he was 7. He looked up at the calendar and realized that he'd be 35 by 2000, which meant that in 28 short years, he could be taking the oath of office. So, in 2000, he threw his name in the ring. Nineteen people voted for him—one more than the Fringe's last subject, Michael Skok.
Considering Koos finished 76,881 New Hampshire votes behind Al Gore in 2000, what is there to gain by running again? Koos told me he wanted to get a better sense of what his own opinions were on the election's major issues so he would know which candidate to endorse.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photographs of: Cap Fendig courtesy Cap Fendig; screenshot of The Huffington Post.