An estimated 10,000 of them are in Indianola, Iowa, at this latest presidential "cattle call" - and today "cattle" is what's on the menu. This is Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's 30th annual "steak fry" - though they actually grill it, this being well north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The presence of every serious Democratic contender demonstrates just how much Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses next January is dominating the current contest, adds Greenfield.
Senator Joe Biden has made 21 visits to Iowa; Sen. Clinton 17; John Edwards ____? Sen. Christopher Dodd 18. Gov Bill Richardson 16; Barack Obama 25 visits. With the caucuses more than three months away, some of these candidates may be spending so much time here, they'll be eligible to vote for themselves.
For several candidates, Iowa could be the end of the road. Senator Biden, far behind in the polls, says if he doesn't finish in the top three, he's out. Governor Richardson has pinned his long-shot hopes on a strong showing. John Edwards wants a win here to shatter Sen. Clinton's "inevitability" image, as does Sen. Obama. The latest polls give Clinton a small lead, but caucus polls this far out are subject to radical change without notice.
Whoever wins or loses next year, the Iowa economy is one sure winner. Between advertising, travel and lodging expenses, and logistics, the Hawkeye state will be a couple of hundred million dollars richer by January. As one presidential candidate put it, "The Iowa caucuses isn't a political battle, it's an industry."