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News Analysis: January 3, 2008

posted on January 3, 2008 at 8:16 PM

It is a seasonally mild evening in Iowa. Temperatures are in the twenties, skies are clear, and caucus turnout is expected to be at record levels, as least for the Democrats, who are excited about their field of candidates and also their chances in '08. The Republicans are said to be less enthused about their field of '08 prospects.

Most polls show high percentages of likely caucus goers are still undecided. The hours leading into caucus night have been filled with candidates rallying supporters and seeking now support.

 

Clinton: Well, then let me ask you, are you ready to caucus tomorrow night to put us on a path to picking a president to get that done?

Romney: We're going so have to bring that same kind of spirit of change, of working together with people across the aisle to Washington. And if I'm elected, I will draw on the spirit of the American people, the great heart of the heartland, people from all over our country who love this land.

Obama: Bill Clinton was right then, and Barack Obama is right now.

McCain: And I have been involved intimately in every major national security challenge we've faced in the last twenty years. I need no on-the-job training.

Thompson: I was listening to Steve King. And all I've got to say is I'm Fred Thompson and I endorse this message.

Yeager: Now, the '08 caucus campaigns are easily the most expensive and sophisticated in history. They are also the most covered. By most accounts, races in both parties are tight. Kay Henderson is here fresh from the campaign trail with her take on all of this. Kay, let's start with the person not in this piece because he wasn't in Iowa yesterday, except for two small events, and that's Governor Mike Huckabee. He went to California to be on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. Any talk -- I know Mitt Romney talked about it yesterday. Was it a discussion on other stump speeches yesterday?

Henderson: Well, the Huckabee camp maintains that more Iowans saw him on "The Tonight Show" than he would have been able to see in person had he stayed here. And there's been a bit of a dust-up between the Romney and Huckabee camp sort of spilling out a little nastiness as we've been down to the wire here. There's not a lot of love lost between the two camps, and we've been seeing that.

Yeager: There were plenty of negative ads between the two. Monday there was an event that I was at and you talked to the governor after that, where he said, "I've got a negative ad. I'm going to show it to you, but then I'm not going to show it to anybody else."

Henderson: It struck at the core of his message being an authentic person who is, you know, grounded and I'm not going to flip-flop. That was sort of the most public flip-flop that you can make in front of the national media. It drew a line. That is his core argument against Mitt Romney is that he is a flip- flopper. So I think that was a problem for him. But, you know, it may have been the best thing that he's ever done. People may respond to it. We won't know until the returns are in.

Yeager: That's one thing that he talked about. He said "I either am making the greatest or worst political decision of my career right now." Is it too early even to tell now, or are we going to have to wait until we get all the results in?

Henderson: We're going to have to wait.

Yeager: Okay. And other people that seem to be picking up would be John McCain. Last night he had a pretty good following in a small, packed room in Urbandale. It seemed to me he had a lot of the major network anchors were in attendance. Four years ago that seemed to be with John Kerry. Do we think that's going to be the story? Are they thinking John McCain is the story?

Henderson: The story that's at play here is that John McCain may do a repeat of what he did in New Hampshire in 2000. As many of your viewers may know, he skipped the Iowa caucuses. He got about 5 percent here without ever campaigning and then went on to New Hampshire to absolutely trounce George Bush by 20 percentage points. So they're all looking to see if that particular storyline will be playing out. And if he were to finish third here, that would be a remarkable story because have you in, as your viewers just saw, this fellow named Fred Thompson who has been traipsing around the state trying to capture third place. And so it would be a major story if McCain were to finish third.

Yeager: Have there been other major stories? I mean we have major media. We have world media. You've done plenty of media. What has been your take on just the media interest on this race this year compared to other years? Does it seem to be -- with the more media, are there more stories that are more important?

Henderson: I think it's proportionate to the job that's being sought. I think you're seeing international attention being paid to these events. Today I've spent time on the phone with people in Australia and Great Britain and, you know, Brussels. So people around the world are paying attention to this because this really is the kickoff event of the 2008 presidential selection process and people want to know who the next president will be.

Yeager: Do you think anybody in Iowa has learned anything from this? Have they said: You know what, he's right, he's a flip-flopper; or I've learned more about issues. Do we think the candidates have learned more about Iowa this time around than they have in the past?

Henderson: The candidates will all tell us that they've learned a lot about Iowa. I think what we've learned is that when other states, such as the Michigans of the world, push ever closer to Iowa, that makes Iowa's results ever more important. I think we've also learned that the fate of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses rests in the hands of whomever is elected president, whether that be a man or a woman.

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