How Will Iowa Turnout Help or Hurt Clinton, Obama and Edwards?

Having spent the past couple of days watching the various campaigns in action, I'll venture a couple of cautious predictions for today.

Obama's supporters are young and really enthusiastic. His crowds are bigger than Clinton's, and if passion could take the day, he'd do it. At Clinton's rally today in Cedar Rapids (above), her followers are older and have the air of being civic leaders. Obama's crowds do have older people as well, but listening to them talk, they seem like they are to a great degree people who aren't ordinarily that engaged in the political process. Obama has drawn them in with the hope that the nasty politics of the Bush era can be overcome.

Caucus voting in Iowa isn't a matter of punching a card in secret, it's done in the open and everybody in the room knows how you're voting. Add to that the fact that if your candidate doesn't reach a 15% threshold, you get to cast a second vote -- and people get to speak on behalf of their candidate. It's actually a very anti-democratic process. There's a lot of small community social pressure you have to factor in when trying to predict an outcome.

It's hard to know where things actually stand, the polls indicate that on the Democratic side it's a tight race. I haven't had a chance to observe the Edwards operation in action (will do so tonight at the Mellencamp show) but all things being equal, I'd have to say that if it were strictly a matter of Clinton supporters in a room with Obama supporters, the gravitas of the Clinton supporters would probably carry the day.

Clinton's also running a very effective radio ad right now of an older woman saying "I was born before women had the right to vote, and before I die I want to see a woman in the White House." It's very emotional and a direct plea to the kinds of people who are going to show up and carry a lot of weight in an open, community decision making process.

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