And although I had been anticipating this day, I felt more a sense of relief and exhaustion than excitement after spending a draining week in a stranger’s basement working for Barack Obama. I was nervous — not about the outcome, but because I would soon have to drive a large white van filled with seven senior citizens to and from the caucus. (I had already spent a half-hour driving around Des Moines quite lost.)
I could not believe I was there. Standing with my friends, fellow interns on the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa, I was about to hear one of the most uplifting political speeches of my life from a man who, with his win in the Iowa caucuses just two hours old, was possibly on his way to the White House. After Barack Obama stepped up to the podium, in front of 3000 excited supporters, he delivered his message of a new American politics, one of healing, one of times of hard work and determination to come, with fundamental changes in our country in sight. We would do this together, he said. And as I stood there, all around me I could feel the history in the making.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., 2:31 p.m. — In New Hampshire, Senator Barack Obama seemed to be the darling of students, who flocked to his rallies and cheered for him as if he were a rock star. To young people, he was supposed to be a candidate who represented a new generation of politics, a voice for change standing up for them in a way no other candidate could, or wanted to.
And, sure enough, young people in the Granite State turned out en masse for Obama yesterday. But an analysis of exit polls reveals that while Obama indisputably dominated New Hampshire’s youth vote, he captured significantly less of it then he did in Iowa. And as Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 enjoyed heavy support from women across the state, a much larger demographic, there went the primary.
NORMAN, Oklahoma, 6:20 p.m. — For assistant professor in Political Science Ange-Marie Hancock, Barack Obama’s resounding win over third-place Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in Iowa last night is big news — it is a historical moment, she says — but it hasn’t made her decision as a voter any easier.
“Honestly, right now I am square in the middle between Obama and Clinton,” she says with a laugh during a phone interview.
INTERSTATE 80, Iowa, 3:30 p.m. – The cameras left today. So, too, did the candidates, in big airplanes that flew north to New Hampshire. Iowans settled back to their lives. In a Country Kitchen off I-80 just west of Des Moines, the talk was once again town gossip – not the candidate haggling heard in a Le Mars Subway just six days ago.
When all settled in the most heated Iowan primary contest in fifty years, two men — Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee — took home the blue ribbon.
DES MOINES, Iowa, 2:45 p.m. – “It’s like the morning after a party,” Iowa State Republican Party Exectuive Director Chuck Laudner says, surveying the phone banking room that looks like a fraternity ripped through it. “Everyone just picks up and goes home, and we’ve got to clean up.”
And that’s just what it is: the morning after the biggest party in Iowa caucus history. Laudner – a lifelong Iowan – has been watching and participating in caucuses for decades, and he says he’s never seen anything like this.
“When the history of this Iowa caucus is written, it will be remembered as the year of the new voter,” Laudner predicts. “You saw 25 to 30 percent of caucus-goers self-identifiying as first-time caucusgoers. It’s all these people who had never voted before so their names weren’t on voter registration lists, or young people who were going to their first caucus.”
DES MOINES, Iowa, 1:50 PM – The Ron Paul for President after-party feels like a funeral. Onstage, a folksy singer croons out a tune with an acoustic guitar. A spattering of Ron Paul supporters stand around holding plastic plates of cheese cubes.
It was a rough night yesterday for the Texas Congressman and his libertarian platform. But over Chex Mix and pepper jack, we found a few young believers.
ANKENY, Iowa, 1:45 p.m. – Last night, I saw of the most bizarre proceedings I’ve ever been witness to, from within the Ankeny United Methodist Church in Iowa. There my companions and I observed the Ankeny Precinct 3 Democratic caucus.
DES MOINES, Iowa, 4 a.m. – Iowa holds a special place in American political life. It is routinely the first state in which presidential candidates are tested and chosen, and has been since 1972.
Iowans seem to regard their civic responsibility with utmost seriousness. They are aware that the eyes of the world are keenly watching them to see who they choose as their candidates for the White House. Many Americans turn to Iowa for guidance in who should be the 44th President of the United States, but perhaps Iowa does not give resonating advice.