It is two degrees here in Des Moines, Iowa. Thats right, two degrees. With temperatures hovering around 28 degrees back in Alexandria, it must feel like a steam bath at home compared to this chill.
By the time you read this, the Iowa Caucuses will have been held Thursday and there should be some clear results which should serve to do some clearing of both the Republican and Democratic fields shortly after.
Last night I had dinner with two senior political reporters which included a drop-by with a senior political operative for one of the major Democratic candidates. The rule of the encounter was we are on background meaning no names, no affiliations.
For all of the press coverage about how GOP caucus-goers in Iowa are undecided about who should come out on top of the stack, among the three people at the table who knew what they were talking about, there is absolutely NO way to sort out what the order of finish will be among the top three Democrats.
According to the Dem political guy, if the turnout on their side (which, it is generally estimated, will be in the 120,000 range) climbs to about 180,000, that will mean a victory for Sen. Barack Obama because it means he has brought tens of thousands of Iowans into the process who had not previously been involved.
If the turnout is at the low end of the scale, it will probably mean very good news for former Sen. John Edwards because he has been here the longest and Iowa Democrats are most comfortable with him.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, then, may well come in first if the turnout is about 150,000 – still a huge number by Iowa caucus standards.
None of the three at the table was willing to bet who would finish first, second, or third on the D side of the ledger Thursday.
On the Republican side [remember, I am a paid consultant to the campaign of Sen. Fred Thompson] there was considerable chatter about the more-odd-than-usual-even-for-Iowa news conference held by Gov. Mike Huckabee the other day when, because no one else was in Des Moines, hundreds of reporters packed into a ballroom at the downtown Marriott to hear Huckabee announce he was no longer going to run negative ads.
And then Huckabee proceeded to show the reporters the very ad he was not going to run.
This was met with an outburst of derisive laughter on the part of the gathered reporters, but Huckabee went on and it is unclear whether Iowans thought this was as cynical a political trick as the national press corps did.
Nevertheless Huckabee (who has, relatively speaking, spent $11.37 in Iowa) and Gov. Mitt Romney (who, according to the Professional Guessing Class, may have spent upwards of $8 MILLION here) are more-or-less tied for lead in pre-caucus polling.
Thompson and Sen. John McCain are generally seen as tied for third going into the last 36 hours of the caucus campaign.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, notwithstanding a couple of debate appearances and some direct mail, is not seriously competing here.
By Friday, a clearer picture of the 2008 field will have emerged. And hopefully I’ll be warmer back in Alexandria.
Rich Galen is a political consultant who lives in Alexandria and is a paid consultant for the Fred Thompson for President campaign.