You might recall that when the ridiculously compressed primary schedule was set (assuming such a haphazard, state-by-state process ever gets “set,” as opposed to “skidded towards and accidentally arrived at after much chaos and posturing”), there was much to-do about how the primacy of the Iowa caucuses might be diminished.
Yeah, I know, hard to recall now, give how the entire mediasphere is completely caucus-crazed. On the other hand, it’s a little hard to blame said sphere. This campaign has already been going on forever, and tomorrow’s the first vote of any consequence. There are all those column inches and airtime to fill, all those blog items to write; no one can afford to wait until the bigger states weigh in on February 5 to start bloviating and picking the winners and losers.
I am sad to say so, but I take an unhealthy interest in events like tomorrow's. While feverishly scanning incoming caucus results, this is what I will be watching for:
1. Whether Obama’s support matches or tops what this closing Des Moines Register poll showed, which will mean that his campaign has succeeded in mobilizing the youth vote and/or convinced an unusually high percentage of independents to caucus for him. (Poll geeks can go here to read about the Register’s poll is assuming an unusually high percentage of independents will participate.)
2. Whether Obama’s real numbers fare worse than the other candidates, when compared to their overall polling average. This could indicate his campaign has not succeeded in scoring votes from indies and young voters—or, more disquietingly, that nontrivial amount of voters tell pollsters they will vote for a black candidate but shy away from doing so at the last possible moment.
3. If Huckabee’s support matches his numbers, which would indicate that his appeal in Iowa far outstrips his organizational deficiencies, or if a better-built machine—read: Romney--carries the day.
4. Whether or not Ron Paul “surprises” the conventional wisdom watchers with a showing at the high end, or even higher, than what he’s currently polling.
With the usual caveat concerning the accuracy of my predictions, I’ll go out on a limb and predict Edwards will be the Democrats' winner, if for no other reason than this was heavily discounted until the last week or so.
And because it also completely wrecks the Obama-Clinton horse race narrative much of the past weeks’ coverage has taken for granted.