(Host) Next Monday evening, roughly 100,000 Iowa voters will attend caucuses to kick up the 2004 Democratic presidential race. According to one national political observer, the situation in Iowa is fluid and many voters will be reassessing their choices in the next seven days.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) For nearly 30 years, USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro has covered presidential politics. Shapiro, who has just returned from Iowa, was in Burlington over the weekend to sign copies of his latest book at a local store.
Recent polls from Iowa indicate that as many as 40 percent of likely voters have not made a final decision concerning which candidate they’ll support at their local caucuses.
Former Governor Howard Dean and Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt are running neck and neck in Iowa with roughly 25 percent of the vote, while Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and North Carolina Senator John Edwards trail with about 15 percent of those responding to the poll.
Shapiro says it’s almost impossible to gauge turnout for the caucuses. In 1988, 110,000 people turned for a contested Democratic race, while just 60,000 participated in 2000:
(Shapiro) “And if you don’t know the answer to that question then polling might pick up trends and surges but it’s not definitive. And therefore it’s really this wonderfully frustrating but quite electrifying situation in Iowa, where literally the future is going to let itself be known when we get there.”
(Kinzel) For the past month, most of the Democratic candidates have been honing their attacks against Howard Dean because Dean is viewed as the front runner in this race.
Shapiro doesn’t think the intensity of the attacks is any worse than in previous presidential primaries. He thinks Dean has emerged without too many bruises because the other candidates have criticized Dean from so many different political viewpoints:
(Shapiro) “If all of the candidates were following the same line of attack – the Gephardt line that Howard Dean cannot be trusted to safeguard Medicare, or the Joe Lieberman line [that] Howard Dean is too much of a dove to be elected president of the United States – it might be effective. But instead each candidate is following their own drummer here and it’s just a cacophony of contradictory charges. And the result is it makes these attacks look political rather than compelling.”
(Kinzel) Shapiro says he believes Dean has enough support and money to survive until at least Super Tuesday, March 2. That’s when more than 10 states – including New York, California and Ohio – will hold their primaries. Shapiro says the real question is which one of the other candidates will emerge during February as the strongest alternative to Dean.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.