By Samantha Hayes in route to Des Moines, Iowa
January First. Maybe it's just something about the number One that propels us forward every year with celebration, anticipation, and expectations of change. In this political year change is a certainty. By the way I'm having these thoughts at 36 thousand feet in route to Des Moines by way of Memphis. Finding a direct flight from Washington, D.C. to Iowa is quite difficult! I have written on my note pad the results from the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Voters in Iowa, who weigh in first in just two days, may be eager to see the White House change hands but the poll indicates they have not decided who in the field of Presidential candidates they want to lead the charge.
The poll questioned voters in Iowa from December 26-30. Nearly fifty percent of Republican voters and a quarter of Democratic voters polled say they have not made up their minds for sure! I look to the breakdown of issues for an indication of why that might be. Republicans say Mitt Romney is the best choice to handle the economy, which happens to be the most important issue to GOP voters in the state. But they think John McCain is their man when it comes to the war in Iraq. Take a socially conservative issue like abortion though and Republicans put Mike Huckabee at the top of the list of GOP candidates.
Its a statistical three way tie among the top Democratic candidates. Hillary Clinton is barely ahead of Barack Obama, 33 to 31 percent. And John Edwards is in third with 22 percent. Edwards has a substantial grass roots organization in Iowa after campaigning there in 2002. And we met a few Edwards supporters in the Memphis airport who were flying into Des Moines on the same flight.
Hillary Clinton's campaign believes it can pull out a win in Iowa by relying on first time caucus goers. CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports that Clinton's campaign is focusing on female voters over 55. And they are doing more than calling supporters and knocking on doors. The campaign is dispersing shovels to make sure sidewalks are clear (no snow expected caucus night though). Campaign workers have also spent considerable time creating a caucus buddy system to team people in precincts. The idea is to encourage supporters to go to the caucuses and emphasize the social aspect of the event.
The party starts Thursday night. That's two weeks earlier than ever before! Is it too early? It sounds like Iowa residents are undecided there, too. The same poll shows 45 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans say "yes."
One thing seems to be agreed upon though and that is the level of anticipation going into these Iowa Caucuses. All eyes are on the Hawkeye state to see how voters here will play a formative role in the 2008 Presidential Election.