New Years Eve was a night of improvisation for me in Iowa. I arrived in downtown Des Moines at 10 p.m., just in time to see Hillary and Bill Clinton walk out of a party. (I would have posted a photo of Hillary, but they were all blurry.) The two waved and smiled to the loyal supporters who braved the bitter Iowa cold to catch a glimpse of the former president and first lady. I assumed that the action wouldn’t end there, but after the Clintons left, everyone just stood around dumfounded.
I caught up with a journalist from a German radio station and asked her if she knew of any other political events taking place that night. She looked confused and disheartened as she told me that she didn’t. She asked me if I had seen anything interesting today, and I told her that I saw Mike Huckabee get a hair cut. Suddenly her face changed into one of child-like envy. “Oh no,” she said, further disheartened. “I’ve checked the schedule, and no one’s doing anything that interesting anymore.”
Out on the street, camera crews from around the world were searching for people to interview. People exchanged expectant looks, as media correspondents and Iowans tried to figure out who was asking the questions, and who was giving the opinions. By the time I entered the Clinton Party, the room was quickly being deserted. Few people were left beyond a couple of bloggers, and some Clinton loyalists searching for someone to talk to.
After the Clinton party was over, I wandered into a party for the John Edwards campaign. Unfortunatly, John Edwards was not at the party, but it did have an open bar. The actress Madeline Stowe was there, eating appetizers and taking questions. Every few minutes, someone would walk by and ask to have his or her picture taken with her. Stowe was working for Edwards in Iowa, she told me, because she felt “inspired” by both his message and his policies.
Meanwhile, the Edwards Staffers were busy blowing off steam, having a few drinks, searching for someone to kiss at midnight, and singing karaoke. There was a general hesitancy to talk about politics at the party. No one wanted to get quoted saying something stupid, minutes before New Years Eve and days before the caucus. One highlight of the night came around 1 am, a few of the staffers sang a full-throated version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” By the time I left the party at 2 a.m., many of the revelers were still going strong.
For all the posts from the Iowa Caucuses, read the Utne Politics blog.