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.
DES MOINES, Iowa, 9:21 p.m. — For a city the size of Des Moines, the presidential field can feel too crowded sometimes. That was the case Thursday night as Fred Thompson supporters accidentally walked into Ron Paul’s after-party, much to the chagrin of Paul’s following. Thompson, the Texas congressman’s backers said, is on the second floor of the Des Moines Marriott.
Downstairs the hors d’oeuvres were better, the press thicker and the crowd older. After some searching amid jackets and gray hair, I found sister and brother Onnalee and Barnes Kelley, 17 and 21, respectively, standing at a table analyzing the results as they came in on CNN.
“[Thompson] was probably not as intense as the Democratic contenders — like Obama, who was really intense and got into all these schools,” Onnalee says. “[Thompson] had support with Republican young people. He could have had more, though.”
But Barnes, a student at Colgate University, said most of his college friends are backing other candidates, like Delaware Senator Joe Biden or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And that’s not due to a lack of name ID — Barnes said “everybody” at Colgate knows about Thompson through his role on the hit TV show “Law and Order.”
From here, Barnes thinks Thompson’s best chance to recapture the momentum he originally had when mulling a candidacy in the summer of 2007 lies in a strong showing in the South, especially in the South Carolina GOP primary on Jan. 19. He might be right. After all, no candidate has won the Republican nomination without winning the South Carolina primary since 1980. If Thompson truly is still the “Clear Conservative Choice,” he’ll have to prove it in South Carolina.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, 9:56 a.m. — “These teams in the WAC conference, you get one team like Boise beating Utah and all of a sudden they’re like, ‘Let us play for a national championship.’ Then you put a team like Hawaii up against Georgia, you say, ‘Here you go, try playing a BCS against an SEC team and watch what happens.’”
Believe it or not, we’re talking politics with University of Iowa College Republicans President Greg Baker. Greg is a junior at the U — a polisci/history double major and one of the nicest guys we’ve met on the campaign trail. It doesn’t take much to change gears from Mitt Romney’s suburban support into a a full-fledged debate about the merits of Iowa football.
As much as he loves football, the game of politics is really Baker’s first love. He’s lived in Earlham (pronounced earl-um), Iowa, his whole life, but he’ll go back to Iowa City on Thursday night to make his voice heard in his first-ever Republican caucus.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, 9:08 p.m. — Underneath a deck of gaudy turquoise and hot-pink stage lights at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines, Mike Huckabee seems strangely out of place. His is a candidacy that never should have made it this far. As the adage goes, politics does not favor the decent. Journalists in front of the twin banks of TV cameras jostle uneasily with exuberant supporters as if they are not quite sure whether to take the short man standing next to Chuck Norris seriously.