03
Jan
08

Our man in Iowa – Phil A Buster reports from the Caucus

Iowa

Open sky and snow-covered fields recently striped of their harvest stretch for miles in each direction as the Des Moines skyline appears on the horizon. The quiet and calm of the rural countryside are quickly replaced by the hustle and bustle outside the Polk County Convention Complex – Iowa’s own “Media Mecca” for the next 12 hours. The streets of downtown Des Moines are lined with satellite trucks from all the familiar media outlets as well as the not so familiar. If you’re a reporter and you cover politics, you’re probably in Iowa today

It’s not just reporters who have arrived in Des Moines in droves – look to your left or right and your bound to see any given number of star surrogates being shuffled around by campaign staff for that last frantic push that they hope will secure victory for their candidate in this all important first battle in the 2008 Presidential Election. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was here stumping for Senator John McCain stressing the need for a Commander-in-Chief who was “reliable” on national security issues. Former Senator Jim Talent of Missouri and political correspondent Bay Buchanan, both supporters of Mitt Romney, said that immigration is a “huge” issue for the voters of Iowa.

The buzz in the spin room leaves one grasping for answers to the mysteries surrounding tonight’s unsolved political puzzle. Will Romney be able to overcome the recent surge of Huckabee with his superior ground organization in Iowa? Who will emerge in the poll position in tonight’s tightly contested Democratic Caucus? How will these outcomes impact the New Hampshire Primary?

Temperatures might only be hovering around 20 degrees outside, but temperatures inside the homes, schools and libraries of Iowa are sure to heat up as the clock strikes 7:00 p.m. tonight. The only certainty in tonight’s races is that we should have some answers to these underlying questions starting around 8:00 p.m. Iowa time.

Phil A Buster from the First Friday Podcast

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50 Responses to “Our man in Iowa – Phil A Buster reports from the Caucus”


  1. 1 Mary
    January 3, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Phil I love you on the show! Who are some of the people you’re seeing out there on the Democrat side? The news is saying nearly everyone who ever worked for Clinton is out there babysitting and driving people around. Are you picking up on any buzz created by them for Hillary?
    Mary

  2. 2 Wild Bill
    January 3, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Mary’s question leads me to ask this, is there anyone out there causing more excitement than their candidate of choice? I guess I mean, is there anyone out there trying to push someone that is getting more attention than the person their pushing?

  3. 3 Hill Rat
    January 3, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I think it’s awesome that you guys got someone out there! Not sure what the “real job” you’re out there for is, as you said in the podcast, but I think it’s great.
    Is there a buzz for a surprise out there? Everyone on Hillary’s team is on TV saying they would be happy with a third place finish, are they just lowering expectations and expecting a higher finish or do they really think they’ll finish third?

  4. 4 Paul 08
    January 3, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    What’s the word on Ron Paul? Does he have people in the media room you’re in? I’m not seeing them on TV.

  5. 5 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Mary, glad you enjoy the show! I just had a chance to talk to Joe Trippi, Senior Advisor to John Edwards, about why Conservative Democrats might choose his man. His answer, “Republican, Democrat and Independent (voters) know that Washington is broken.” This is a message I’ve been hearing from representatives from every campaign – “America wants change!” The only big name Clinton representative I’ve crossed paths with was Howard Wolfson earlier this morning. I’m sure they are all out swarming the Iowa countryside looking for that last person who needs a ride to their caucus. The biggest Hillary buzz is the speculation of what a third place finish might mean for her going into New Hampshire. Most of the talking heads around here believe she may be the only one in the Democratic field that could withstand a lose in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    Wild Bill, I figured we’d see some of the celebrity representatives around the Spin Room, but so far they have been noticeably absent. No Oprah. No Chuck Norris. None of Edwards seemingly endless supply of musicians.

    Hill Rat, I can’t imagine inside the bowls of the Clinton campaign anyone gets a good nights sleep between now and New Hampshire if they finish third tonight in Iowa. The one thing that I can imagine is a lot of finger pointing and people blaming each other for the finish. I think anything less than a first place finish will be viewed as a major disappointment within her campaign. Outside the campaign when speaking to the media I think they are doing what the campaign handbook tells them to do. Some of the most interesting buzz around here is the speculation of who finishes third in the Republican Caucus – McCain or Thompson.

    It’s going to be an interesting night. Things are starting to pick up in the Spin Room. I just had a chance to speak with Gov. Matt Blunt of Missouri and I’m expecting a visit from Mayor Giuliani’s Campaign Manager shortly.

  6. 6 Lisa Lee
    January 3, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I hope you’re asking those people to come to a First Friday in the future!
    Whose campaign is being swarmed by the media the most? Just saw Mary Matalin on Fox, get her!

  7. 7 firstfriday
    January 3, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    No flirting with Phil! He has a job to do and the rest of us will get jealous!

  8. 8 Fred is Red!
    January 3, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Are you hearing anything about the rumor started by someone about Fred dropping out if he doesn’t come in third? What’s your take on that? He seems to be blaming Romney but it seems more like a McCain thing so he can finish third and get the Mo’ for New Hampshire. Am I off base?

  9. 9 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Paul 08, There is one guy here in the radio room that has a Ron Paul T-Shirt on and he has been on air all afternoon – I’m not sure where his broadcast is being sent. Other than that I haven’t seen anyone from the campaign. The final Des Moines Register poll has Paul finishing fourth with 9% of the vote.

  10. 10 Mary
    January 3, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks for the quick reply! And I will flirt with anyone I want! I have full faith that Phil can flirt and work at the same time.

  11. January 3, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Hey Phil, is there any vibe that a surprise might be in the offing? Something along the lines of Richardson or Biden coming in a close 4th?

  12. 12 Rich
    January 3, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Aside from Kucinich, who has said his supporters should go for Obama after the first round, have any of the other candidates said they should support someone else if they don’t make the first round cut? Has anyone heard?

  13. 13 JM MILLER
    January 3, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    AS A JOURNALISM MAJOR I WANT TO KNOW WHICH MEDIA OUTLET HAS THE BIGGEST TEAM OUT THERE?
    THANKS

  14. 14 succubus
    January 3, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I haven’t heard anyone saying their supporters should go for someone else and I can’t imagine any Kucinich support making a difference, unless this is as close as the media would like it to be.

  15. January 3, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    It’s been reported that Richardson has told his people to go Obama if he’s unviable after the first round succubus.

  16. 16 firstfriday
    January 3, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    David, thanks for answering the question. Phil is running after Biden trying to get a chat with him for his real job, so it might be a bit before he can get back. Kind of surprised Richardson would do that since he was in the Clinton Administration. Could be a push to get Edwards out of the race by making sure he loses tonight and it also sets the bar so high for Obama with a big, surprise win that he comes out the loser even if he wins in New Hampshire by a little.

  17. January 3, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I was a little surprised as well, but why help Obama to hurt Edwards to help Hillary? It seems a little bass ackwards. Perhaps Richardson thinks that maybe Obama will pull it off?

  18. 18 firstfriday
    January 3, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Obama wins bigger than expected in Iowa, even if Edwards is second, he’s a distant second. A distant second pretty much means Edwards is done because he doesn’t have and won’t get the money needed to continue like he would if he won or just barely lost. New Hampshire is viewed as a firewall for Hillary, and she leads there. If Obama wins big in Iowa and loses in New Hampshire, she’s the “comeback kid” just like her husband. And they spin his Iowa win as a fluke in the hopes of deflating his sails. Not saying it’s true, it’s very grassy knoll, but still, wouldn’t put anything past the Clintons.

  19. 19 Ethan
    January 3, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    I wouldn’t put anything past the Clintons either but that seems to be taking a big chance. The polls in NH aren’t that great for Hillary even though she’s ahead there. Though they do always seem to like the underdog. But I’m not sure Hillary could be considered the underdog anywhere.

  20. 20 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Hi guys, sorry for the long delay. I’ve just been running around the Press Area chasing Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. Biden is saying he wouldn’t change places with any of his opponents – he likes his position and when he “finishes fourth tonight” the press will be talking about how he exceeded expectations. What’s Richardson’s next step after Iowa? “I’m getting on a plane and heading to New Hampshire.” So everyone on both sides is still claiming victory or setting the stage for lower expectations (ie. Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Huckabee & Romney).

    Now an attempt to answer your questions:

    Lisa Lee – It’s hard to say who is being swarmed the most. The only two candidates that I’ve seen at the Convention Complex have been Biden and Richardson and getting to them was like trying to getting the last ice cream cone on a hundred degree day. Romney has definitely had the most surrogates here starting early this morning. All the big spin misters are here – Frank Luntz and Terry McAuliffe to name a couple. I haven’t seen Mary Matalin yet, but if I do I promise to speak with her.

    Fred is Red – There is a lot of talk and speculation surrounding who will come in third in the Republican Caucus tonight – McCain or Thompson. The final CNN/Opinion Research Poll has Thompson in third and the final Zogby Poll has McCain and Thompson tied for third. I haven’t heard anything about Thompson dropping out after tonight – I’ll keep my ears open for that.

    Mary – You are correct, I can flirt and work at the same time.

    David – Biden is predicting he’ll come in fourth – not sure how close you consider close, but it probably won’t be by anything less than 10% to 15% less than the third place finisher. I don’t think anyone is expecting any surprises as far as the top two Republican candidates go and the top three Democrat candidates go. If there is to be a surprise I think it would be by margin of victory – if one of these candidates were to win first by more than 5% to 10%.

    Rich – I haven’t heard much buzz about where candidates that aren’t viable in the first ballot have asked their supporters to go in the second ballot. At this point everyone still believes they can win, no matter how unrealistic that is.

    Jim – This isn’t a scientific answer, but I’d have to guess from the number of people I’ve seen and the amount of space they are taking up in the Press Rooms it would either be FOX or NBC. Not only are the national networks here, but many of their local affiliates from around the country are here with live feeds back to their home channel.

    Stay tuned – more to come as the night rolls on.

  21. 21 Big Time
    January 3, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Have you heard anything on the entrance polls yet, or is it too soon?

  22. 22 Ethan
    January 3, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Now that people have stared going to the causus has it slowed down? Is the caucus closed or open to the press? Will we have to wait till they’re done or will we get reports while they’re going on?

  23. 23 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Ethan,

    I think C-SPAN is showing live Caucus coverage. It is still pretty busy here and I suspect it will get a bit busier as the Caucus process begins since the candidates won’t have much to do but talk to the media for the next couple hours.

    It is anticipated that results for the Republican race will begin rolling in around 8:00-8:30 p.m. CST and results from the Democratic race will begin rolling in around 9:30-10:00 p.m.

    I’ll report them as they come in.

  24. 24 Patrick Swayze rulez!
    January 3, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Just listened to your podcast and I just have to say that I really liked it and laughed by ass off at the Patrick Swayze discussion. Can’t wait for the next show.

  25. 25 Kari
    January 3, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    What have some of these people you’ve been interviewing said? What was the most ridiculous thing you’ve heard and what was the most honest? Any gaffes? You need to quit your “real job” there and tell us more!

  26. 26 Mary
    January 3, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    In your face, firstfriday!

  27. 27 Big Ben
    January 3, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Don’t know if you’ve heard anything about this but it sounds like a load of crap and really bothers me that a guy can’t eat dinner and talk with a friend without some hack listening in on their conversation and posting it on the web. http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/blog/g/21c9ced3-1be7-46b1-88e3-702bcbb8a00e
    The story even made Drudge. No one else seems to have heard the conversation except this Amanda Carpenter. Seems like someone else would have heard some part of it in a crowded diner…

  28. 28 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    The calm before the storm has hit the Polk County Convention Complex. The only sound to be heard is of reporters studying their notes one last time before the truckloads of surrogates return to spin away how their candidates did or didn’t do – remember, there is always two sides to every story. Or is that three sides or maybe four or five to every story?

    I did just have the chance to speak with Senator Harkin of Iowa who is predicting a surprise in tonight’s Republican Caucus – he wouldn’t go any further than simply predicting a surprise (I wonder if that surprise could be Alan Keys actually getting a delegate?) On the Democratic side he is predicting a surprise in the fourth place spot as well. He said that the big issues for Iowans going to the caucus tonight are Iraq, immigration, healthcare and education. One interesting historical note – he said he has been coming to caucuses for nearly 50 years and in all those years has never seen a caucus season surrounded by as much energy and excitement and because of that he is predicting a record breaking turnout tonight.

    Swayze – There isn’t much to add to what you’ve already said other than another mention of just how good of a movie Red Dawn is. If you haven’t seen it go rent it this weekend!

    Kari – Candidates and their surrogates are saying the things we’d expect a candidate or surrogate to say in the hours leading up to a vote. They are talking about their candidates strengths and their opponents weaknesses. At the same time they are laying out why a first place finish would be great and why a second or third place finish won’t kill them. I haven’t heard any real gaffs yet – most everyone is doing a good job of staying on message. I think the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard was when Biden said he wouldn’t change places with where any of the others candidates stand today – I’m not sure I believe that he wouldn’t like to have the money and support that a Clinton or Obama are enjoying. The most honest thing probably was when Gov. Richardson said he was “getting on a plane and heading to New Hampshire,” when asked what he planned to do after Iowa.

    Big Ben – There has been some talk about this story, but I’ll I’ve seen or heard is what is included in Amanda’s posting.

    We should start getting some results in the next 30 minutes or so. I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

  29. January 3, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Wolverines!

    I’ve been flipping through the news networks, and I’ve heard reports of massive turnout, some caucus sites reporting *triple* the numbers over 2004.

  30. 30 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    David – the reports here seem to follow the reports you are speaking of. I haven’t heard any specific numbers or percent increases from 2004, but it does seem as if there is a higher than average turnout occurring.

  31. January 3, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    MSNBC reported a caucus site had 86 people in 2004 and has over 250 this year.

  32. 32 Rich
    January 3, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Numbers are starting to roll in and it looks like a big win for Huckabee. And Edwards is ahead right now.
    Phil, hearing anything?

  33. 33 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    The first results are coming in:

    Republican Caucus – 2% reporting

    1. Huckabee – 34%
    2. Romney – 24%
    3. Thompson – 18%

    Democratic Caucus – 10% reporting

    1. Edwards – 34%
    2. Clinton – 32%
    3. Obama – 31%

    More updates as they come in.

  34. 34 Patrick Swayze Rulez!
    January 3, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Let’s not forget Point Break!

  35. 35 Lisa Lee
    January 3, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Edwards isn’t really going to win is he?

  36. 36 Barry
    January 3, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Hearing anything about Thompson? For me that’s the biggest story, if it holds up.

  37. 37 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Edwards seems to be holding strong and Thompson is fighting McCain for third.

    Most recent numbers:

    Republican – 15% reporting

    1. Huckabee – 36%
    2. Romney – 23%
    3. Thompson – 15%
    4. McCain – 12%

    Democrat – 23% reporting

    1. Edwards – 33%
    2. Clinton – 32%
    3. Obama – 32%

  38. 38 Chase
    January 3, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    What’s the feeling like in the spin room? Who still has people around and who has left? who’s on the phone now getting numbers from the field and who is already moving to downplay the results? Are the Edwards or Clinton people looking nervous?

  39. 39 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    It’s approaching 8:30 here in Des Moines and the media have called both caucuses. Huckabee is the projected winner in the Republican caucus and Obama is the projected winner of the Democratic caucus.

    Still no sign of the candidates and not too many surrogates running around just yet.

  40. 40 a freepers freeper
    January 3, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Are Hillary’s people spinning yet? Is third the new first yet? And what’s the buzz on Thompson? Finishing third there is a lot better than anyone was thinking would happen even this morning.

  41. 41 Phil A Buster
    January 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I’ve just left the main Media Room where all the big networks are holding court and the hall is abuzz with the size of both Huckabee and Obama’s leads over their nearest opponent. There still isn’t much spinning going on from the campaigns inside Spin Ally – the only notable was Senator Grassley of Iowa.

    It appears that Senator Harkin was correct in his prediction that tonight would be a historic turnout for the Democrats. The previous turnout record was 122,000 in 2004. With 95% of the precincts reporting in the Democratic Caucus tonight, turnout totals are 212,000.

  42. 42 Dirk K
    January 3, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Good work, Mr. Buster.

    Any word on how Mike snagged such a huge lead, and whether he has the infrastructure to build off the momentum? Considering Edwards and Clinton are so close, is there really a 3rd, or is it a tie for second in the eyes of the nation?

  43. 43 firstfriday
    January 4, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Dirk,
    Heard from Phil, he’s called it a day in the hope of making an earlier flight, but will answer your question (and any others posted after this) tomorrow.
    Thanks

  44. January 4, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Mad props to Phil for a good night of blogging!

  45. 45 Phil A Buster
    January 4, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Dirk – Huckabee was able to parlay his support from Evangelical Christians into a big win in Iowa. It has been reported that Romney won 3 out of every 4 non Evangelical voter last night. The future of Huckabee is the big question. It is pretty evident that he has a weaker infrastructure in place in New Hampshire than he enjoyed in Iowa. Is five days enough for him to ride his Iowa momentum? How much money can he raise over the next five days? These are both key questions that must be answered in the next few days.

    As to Edwards and Clinton, I’d have to say that there is a distinction between second and third even though it was so close. Anything other than a first place finish in Iowa has to be viewed as a loss for Clinton – the perceived front runner for the past year.

    David – Thanks for the props.

    It is still up in the air if I’ll be in New Hampshire next week, but we’ll probably put together a similar blog on Tuesday night. Thanks to all that contributed and read the Iowa Caucus blog.

    Phil

  46. 46 Barry
    January 5, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Thanks for the update, Phil. I really appreciate a site that takes the time to answer question from the people who comment. I will return here for that reason.

  47. 47 Phil A Buster
    January 5, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks Barry!


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