POLITICS

12 Things To Watch In The Iowa Caucuses

The candidates have sought endorsements, worked the streets and made last-minute gambles. But what if it all comes down to a snow storm?

01/02/2016 10:51 PM AEDT | Updated 02/02/2016 7:48 AM AEDT
The Huffington Post

Hello from the High Life Lounge and El Bait Shop, down by the river in Des Moines, Iowa. It's our favorite purpose-built dive bar cafe. The cheap panelling and old Schlitz signs recall "Starsky and Hutch" but the place opened in 2006, just as the Obama team brought irony to town. The bar has 185 craft beers ON TAP and a menu with enough bacon-wrapped and deep-fried items to bankrupt Obamacare in minutes.

It's a good place to fortify yourself for the Iowa caucuses. 

Perhaps 300,000 Iowans will gather in school gyms, libraries and other public places on Monday night at 7 p.m. Central Time to kick off the 2016 presidential campaign by voting in front of each other (Republicans by using a ballot box in the room; Democrats by gathering in groups).

What matters is not the final delegate count -- which will take many months of maneuvering to determine -- but the raw popular vote winners as announced Monday night on TV and online. 

Iowa is a bad predictor of the eventual nominees, but it weeds out obvious losers and gives those who finish in the money a chance to move on to New Hampshire to make their case. 

The assumption is that Trump, Cruz, Hillary and Bernie will survive, in various states of glory or distress. If Trump and Bernie win it's going to be tempting to pronounce politics as we know it DEAD. That's probably an exaggeration, but, hey, what's the media for?

In the meantime, we're eying the "High Life Man" burger, described thus: "A 1/4 lb. burger, an Italian sausage patty, three strips of bacon, swiss and American cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce. Topped with a mini powdered donut."

A DONUT on a bacon cheeseburger! 

So without further ado, here's 12 things to look for at the most American place on Earth:

 
RANK SCENARIO
1
WEATHER ALERT
They’re calling for snow in Iowa. Might this be good for Hillary and Cruz? Their in-state troops have deeper ties and better experience traversing the terrain. Bernie's young-uns and Trump’s newbies, not so much.
2
TRUMP'S PRESENCE
His supporters -- are they in it for the spectacle, or are they ready to caucus? And will they know how to do it?
3
TRUMP'S ABSENCE
Did his absence at the final debate sit well with caucus-goers?
4
WHO IS NO. 3?
It’s a real battle on the GOP side. If someone can come within a mile of Trump and Cruz, someone might jump ahead in a crowded “establishment lane."
5
SANDERS' TURNOUT
Will he turn out the vote across Iowa, or will he just run up the score in college counties? America’s crusading professor is going to get his students to turn in their term papers, but he needs more to amass delegates.
6
WATCH FOR THE DROPOUT
Martin O’Malley! (Not a big surprise, actually, but we’re praying he stays in a little longer.) On the GOP side, Huckabee and Santorum went to Donald Trump’s rally to send a clear message: “Yeah, we’re quitting.”
7
THE SAGE OF THE HAWKEYE STATE
Will Ann Selzer call the race correctly in her final poll?
8
REVENGE OF THE ETHANOL
Will Gov. Terry Branstad’s ethanol code-red order do in Cruz right at the end?
9
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Will AARP, Planned Parenthood, unions, Obama’s kind words and 40 years' worth of Friends of Bill and Hill bring it home for Hillary Clinton, the institutionalist? Or is the revolution on?
10
BATTLE OF THE EVANGELICALS
Who feasts with angels? Ted Cruz, who’s backed by Iowa’s Christian kingmaker, Bob Vander Plaats? Or will Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Lynchburg endorsement make Donald Trump’s majority look moral?
11
EXIT MUSIC
How will the media call the race on Monday night -- and how early? Last time around, a focus on the raw vote numbers and a premature call gave Mitt Romney a big boost -- but it was Rick Santorum that eventually won the final count.
12
A LITTLE SIDE ACTION
Will Jason Linkins (who predicted Trump won’t win a single delegate) and Igor Bobic (who predicted Trump would win it all) lose their bets with Howard Fineman (who says that Cruz will win and Jason is crazy)? In Jason’s case, yes. We’ll find out the rest Monday night.
Photos: Getty, Associated Press

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