--Claire Brinberg, 360 producer
There's a certain species of political junkie known as the Caucus Tourist...a strange creature who emerges from hibernation every four years and instinctively heads to Iowa, armed with long underwear and warm socks.
They don't come here to work; they come here to watch: to get up close and semi-personal with the men (and woman) who would be president and feed off the excitement enveloping this state in the final days leading up to its caucuses.
I'm not exactly a Caucus Tourist. I'm getting paid to be here. But in my down time, I've been racing from high school gym to high school gym, listening to candidates I've up 'til now seen mostly on tape. Let me tell you this much: there's nowhere else I'd rather be right now. Not even close.
It's hard to describe Caucus time in Iowa for people who've never been. This large state turns into a small town. Restaurants bustle with friends from the coasts, all complaining about the cold, the driving conditions, the tardiness of candidates. But everyone's thrilled to be here.
On the trail, you run into people you haven't seen in years. It's like a giant nerds convention: everyone cares about the inside baseball strategey of politics. And everyone speaks the language.
I'm not a big New Year's Eve person, but I am PUMPED for New Year's Eve in Des Moines. A prescient newspaper reporter friend of mine booked us a table about 2 months ago at one of the city's more fabulous restaurants (of which there are more than you'd think, but still not many).
So at about 9p tonight, I'll be sitting at a table of disgruntled New Yorkers (and one token Iowan), trying to pretend we'd rather be back home. Later, we'll ramble through the Skywalk (the overhead heated walkways connecting office buildings and hotels in downtown Des Moines), hitting the impromptu political, uh, parties popping up this year.
You can keep Times Square.