Flying Blind Into Iowa

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Sometimes I just fucking love politics.

The race in Iowa is such that nobody, and I mean nobody, can predict who is going to emerge victorious on January 3 — in either party's caucuses.

We're looking at a dead heat among Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on the Democratic side and a dogfight between Huckabee and Romney in the Republican race.

Polling over the holidays — when families are traveling — is a joke. So the instruments we pajama pundits usually use to gauge momentum are clouded by statistical burps that show Hillary up ten points in one poll or and down two in another.

And no poll, no matter the season or the skill of its designer, can capture the mood of the caucus-going electorate with the kind of granularity you need to know whether a Dodd supporter is going to back Edwards or Obama when his favored, but "nonviable," candidate fails to reach the 15 percent threshold and is forced to make a second choice.

We've just got to wait for the main event. Meantime, we're left reading tea leaves, and extrapolating from anecdote.

To paint one small picture of late-game retail politics in action: My step-brother, an elementary school principal in Iowa City had been wavering between Clinton and Obama, leaning toward Barack ... until he got a personal phone call at home from Terry McAuliffe, the former DNC chair, asking him to be a precinct captain for Hillary.

According to my stepmother "Hillary got a captain and a voter. He couldn't resist being asked like that."