Why you should care

Because it’s the purest example we have of democracy in action. 

By now the talking heads, strategists and lookie loos have all descended upon Iowa’s snow-tipped cornfields in search of a bit of magic. We don’t use the word “magic” ironically, or even lightly: Many believe that tonight’s night’s caucus is the purest remaining example of American democracy in action. 

The run-up has been fun, manic, a bit nuts. As OZY’s crisscrossed the state these past two weeks, we’ve seen Bernie Sanders seek to capture a bit of Obama alchemy; Ted Cruz storm through frigid bars and barns to show he’s a man of the people; and Ben Carson attempt a comeback, simply by showing up and shaking hands – lots and lots of shaking hands. In Iowa City, we listened to pop-tart Demi Lovato croon away on behalf of her hoped-for Madam President, and wondered how far a surrogate strategy can get you. We also got to meet some of the surprising personalities behind the scenes, from the so-called Dr. Politics (a political scientist who combines authority, goofiness and a fatalism about this whole process) to a state campaign director who nearly got imprisoned in Egypt. 

Back in Iowa City, we stopped by the Hamburg Inn to check out its “Coffee Bean Caucus,” wherein customers drop a bean into the jar of their special someone. If this college town decided today, Bernie would win by a landslide —  by now the grey-haired socialist needs two jars for all his beans. On the Republican side, Donald Trump leads. Guess we’ll know soon enough just how predictive the coffee-bean caucus is.



The route to the White House: news, stories and analysis from on and off the presidential campaign trail.