Franken: Official start of political season
CNN's Bob Franken
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DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- One week remains until the Iowa caucuses, the first referendum of the 2004 presidential campaign, and Democratic presidential hopefuls are working hard to ensure a strong performance as the political season officially kicks off.
On Sunday, Democratic candidates gathered for the last scheduled debate before January 19, focusing on race relations. CNN's Bob Franken reported Monday from Des Moines, Iowa.
FRANKEN: Welcome to the expectations game. Of course, this is not an election in the purest sense of the word. We've all been through that. These are caucuses. Each of the parties gets those who decide to turn out together, and through a laborious process they choose who their favorites are. And when I say expectations, it's really what it's all about.
The expectation is for a battle between Gov. [Howard] Dean, who is the favorite right now, and [Rep.] Dick Gephardt, who is the man who is supposed to be in second place with him.
And then of course, there is the battle for the also-rans -- is it going to be John Kerry or is it going to be Senator [John] Edwards, who is also somebody who is moving up? Well, the latter two, in fact, are discussing what they would like to describe as their momentum.
KERRY: I don't mean to take on polls but they don't necessarily know how to screen the caucuses. Look, I'm moving here in Iowa.
EDWARDS: There's been a dramatic upsurge here in my campaign. We go to these events now and instead of seeing 50 people, which is what we expect, there are 200, or even 400 or 500 in some cases. We've seen an enormous amount of energy.
FRANKEN: And while Senators Kerry and Edwards are trying to climb up, as Governor dean is trying to worry about falling down, and he's been the target since he's been in the favorite role for quite some while.
He's been the target of any number of barbs from all his opponents, including in the debate last night, the MSNBC "black-brown debate," in which he was charged by some ... of really having a policy that was against minorities when he was governor of Vermont.
It's going to be a raucous week in Iowa. It is really the official start of the political season. The prestart has been going on for the better part of area, but now it starts to get serious.