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Does Anyone Care About the Caucus?

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

And we're going to revisit a pair of today's biggest stories. First to Iowa, and downtown Des Moines, and the traffic jam there of America's journalists.

DAY TO DAY's Alex Cohen is among them. Here are some of her impressions of the pre-caucus rush.

Unidentified Man #1: How are you?

Unidentified Man #2: Fantastic. How are you?

Unidentified Man #1: Didn't look in the mirror, did you?

Unidentified Man #2: Well, no.

ALEX COHEN: My first stop yesterday was the Executive Forum Barber Shop, where Scott Sales is advertising presidential haircuts for 75 bucks a pop. Scott's trimmed the hair of candidates Chris Dodd and Mike Huckabee. He says the past few pre-caucus weeks have been ridiculously busy.

Mr. SCOTT SALES (Barber): I'll be glad when it's done but I'll also be a little disappointing because I have lots of business from the various campaigns, their staff and stuff, so...

COHEN: Do people talk politics when they're in the chair?

Mr. SALES: Sometimes. But I, you know, that's kind of one subject that you got to be careful with when you talk, because you've got both Republicans and Democrats and you have to be careful on what you say.

(Soundbite of Starbucks)

Unidentified Man #3: Grande hot chocolate.

COHEN: Down the street at the local Starbucks, manager Andrew Smalley(ph) says they're trying to please customers of all political preferences with a special concoction.

Mr. ANDREW SMALLEY (Starbucks Manager): It's our caucus special. It is a quad for the extremist, a grande for the moderate. Organic milk, which means it's green and healthy, and no whip for the conservatives. But let's not be biased here. Please remember to drink liberally.

COHEN: And there were plenty of people in need of highly caffeinated drinks last night, otherwise known as Caucus Eve. Like Iowa campaign manager Eric Woolson, who I met at Huckabee headquarters.

Mr. ERIC WOOLSON (Huckabee Iowa Campaign Manager): I think I went to bed about 1:15 this morning. I had to be up by 3:50. And so I probably had maybe two hours of sleep.

COHEN: Late last night, he and a group of young staffers huddled around a small TV to watch their candidate on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: As the once hefty, now skinny Governor Huckabee joked with Leno about his weight, Eric Woolson kept busy tending to last minute details, scribbles on scraps of paper piled high on his desk.

Mr. WOOLSON: My mother would be embarrassed by the stacks of paper on there and cardiologist wouldn't be very happy about the bags of potato chips all over the place.

COHEN: And your candidate might not be either.

Mr. WOOLSON: And my candidate might not be too thrilled either. I've got a little Raisin Bran Crunch in the corner to kind of try to even things out a little bit, a little more fiber.

COHEN: While Woolson's candidate was hanging out with Leno in California last night, there were plenty of celebrities who came here to Des Moines.

Actor Ted Danson and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa showed up at a Hillary Clinton rally. John Mellencamp rocked on behalf of John Edwards. All this for a small state that a lot of Americans have trouble finding on a map, but Iowa is a special state with a special vote.

Unidentified Man #4: (Unintelligible) about caucusing, the terms comes from, you know, the Native Americans that used to caucus to find their tribal chief. It was about sitting down with people they respect.

COHEN: Scott Carlson is a manager at the Court Avenue Restaurant and Brew Pub. Scott, like many of the undecided caucus-goers I've talked to here, said in the end his decision will be based on fellow Iowans.

Mr. SCOTT CARLSON (Court Avenue Restaurant): I don't want to go in with I'm going to vote for somebody. I'd like to go in, who I believe in, you know, bring some that information with me and talk to people about why I like this candidate, but also listen to what they have to say and make a good decision that night. So that's why it works. That's why it's such a good time.

COHEN: Alex Cohen, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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