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Inside Politics

Express Line dispatch: On the bus in Iowa

CNN correspondent Bob Franken.

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Election Express

From Bob Franken, CNN correspondent:

(CNN) -- What is so remarkable about our bus is how cooperative everyone in Iowa is in letting us park it. I mean, the bus is a behemoth! You don't just drive up and park this tank. But the people of Iowa are so helpful (or maybe incredulous) that they have found space for us.

Right now we're parked smack dab in the middle of the University of Iowa campus. Yesterday, it was Iowa State. Our "magical mystery tour" of the state takes us to Cedar Rapids tomorrow, which is billed the "oatmeal capital," since Quaker Oats is headquartered there.

That's where our, uh, "cereal" coverage will continue.

From Deirdre Walsh, CNN producer/researcher:

Posted: 2:42 PM ET

Iowa City, Iowa (CNN) -- While the campaigns and the political press have their eyes on the latest state tracking polls, there's an unofficial poll being conducted at a local restaurant in this bustling university town.

The Hamburg Inn, a family-owned restaurant renowned for its breakfasts, is sponsoring a "coffee bean caucus" from January 7 - 17. Patrons can take a coffee bean out of a mug on the front counter and place it in the jar of their pick for president. A row of jars for each of the nine Democratic candidates, along with one for President Bush and one labeled "undecided," are lined up with a sign saying "Vote Here."

The "coffee bean caucus" at Iowa City's Hamburg Inn.

An unofficial tally shows Dennis Kucinich, John Kerry and "undecided" tied for the lead. President Bush and Howard Dean are not far behind. Results will be announced on Sunday.

Steve Fugate, manager of Hamburg Inn, says they made sure to put the beans in glass jars so no one could be accused of stuffing the jars. He says they will count the beans in public to avoid any charges of bias.

If the latest state polls showing the race tightening are on track, this is one stop the campaigns may want to add to their list.

From Dale Fountain, CNN Election Express bus driver:

Posted 10:49 AM ET

Crew call 4:45 a.m. Temperature: 32 degrees. Today's "Express" location: The University of Iowa, home of the Hawkeyes. The campus is located in Iowa City, the former capital of Iowa. (The capital was moved to Des Moines in 1855).

I expect a pretty good crowd out to watch Bob Franken, Judy Woodruff and the "Crossfire" gang today -- if our visit to Iowa State yesterday was any indication. Tons of kids came out to watch our live broadcasts and get their pictures taken with the "Express." 

Iowa State is home of the Cyclones, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it's also home to the largest Rice Krispies Treat ever made --  2,480 pounds. Wow. Today's TV lingo: "bird." It means the satellite.

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