And that brings me to what I increasingly believe will be the "shocker" in the Iowa caucus. Let me make it clear that my vague description of activities above has nothing to do with the prediction I'm about to make.
As I've written in prior columns, I find it hard to believe that massive numbers of voters returning from their New Year's celebrations -- in a state where it gets dark at 4:30 p.m. and is likely to be very cold -- will be compelled to leave the toasty confines of their homes and abandon watching the Orange Bowl game in order to vote in a caucus.
Under this theory, turnout will be impossible to predict. There are many theories that I've already explored about which candidates, of both major parties, might benefit from this quirky set of circumstances created by the move of the Iowa caucus to Jan. 3. But the one candidate I believe could benefit above all others will be GOP candidate Ron Paul. Iowa political insiders I've talked to agree.
After covering the public appearances of various presidential candidates on the Republican side, and even participating in the seemingly secure atmosphere of a post-debate media "spin room," I have been amazed at the zeal of Ron Paul supporters to appear in huge numbers.
What received little coverage out of last week's CNN-YouTube debate in Florida was that the biggest demonstration outside the hall was a parade of Paul supporters. Inside the spin room, where credentialed journalists and, now, bloggers are allowed to interview candidates and their surrogates, a seemingly unknown but large group of "reporters" surrounded Paul.
At a recent Rudy Giuliani rally, the Paul supporters virtually outnumbered the Giuliani crowd.
All of this tells me that what looks like 6 percent of the vote for Paul in states like Iowa could easily, especially where turnout is low, move toward double digits. From what my friends in Iowa are telling me, Huckabee or some other candidate may emerge the winner, but the big story that night may be that the contrarian Paul could find himself placing ahead of some really big names. Time will tell.
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