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What we can learn from Iowa

January 3, 2008 |  2:42 pm

Beyond the obvious matter of who wins, we're wondering:

* Can a candidate stiff Iowa and not suffer irreparable damage in future contests?

Republican Rudy Giuliani, after some cursory campaigning in the state, clearly surrendered earlier this week. One result: He has all but dropped off the radar screen of late. Giuliani hopes for a respectable showing in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, but a back-of-the-pack showing in Iowa could hinder that effort.

* Does organization -- and tons of money -- trump enthusiasm?

The face-off between the two main Republican rivals in the state, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, most obviously frames this question. As detailed by the Boston Globe here, the two campaigns could hardly be more different in their infrastructure (and in the personalities projected by the two candidates).

* Is relying on younger voters, less partisan ones and those who have not participated in previous caucuses a winning formula?

In previous campaigns, even broaching this scenario would probably have gotten a consultant fired. But Democrat Barack Obama and his advisors early on saw this as their best path to victory, ceding large numbers of activists -- and many older party members -- to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. The strategy caused grumbling at times among Obama's financial backers, but recent polls have shown it could be vindicated. Then again, tonight's results may show that trying to predict a caucus through polling is a futile exercise.

* Will the Ron Paul boomlet -- so obvious in the passion among those who have embraced him and their willingness to donate money to the cause -- manifest itself in actual votes?

Paul's support has seemed more extensive in New Hampshire than Iowa, so to some degree this question may be more pertinent next week. Still, a poor Paul showing tonight -- say, something not close to double digits -- is sure to cause political traditionalists to keep wondering if there's any there there.

-- Don Frederick

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