That's the story here in Iowa: how many of Obama's supporters, mostly young people, will will actually caucus tonight?
If Michael Voynovich's AP Government class from Cincinnati, Ohio is any indication, the Buckeye State might just be Obama Country by tonight. Like the 1,600 students, teachers, and Des Moines supporters that showed up at Hoover High School for Obama's 10:15 PM rally last night, young people are braving the cold to show up for the Senator's events—even from over five hundred miles away.
After attending three large (over a thousand people) rallies for Obama in New Hampshire and Boston in the past few weeks, it becomes pretty clear pretty fast that they're basically all the same. Throw in Oprah, Michelle, or some live music, but the message, right down to the big applause lines stay the same. I used to get goose-bumps whenever U2's City of Blinding Lights played over the cheering crowds as Obama took to the stage, but I've seen it all too many times and I only quietly sing the song while snapping my pictures.
I won't, however, let my recent overexposure to Obama cloud my ability to read the crowds and support he's currently receiving. Hoover High School's gymnasium was packed—students with (actual) hand-made shirts and signs filled the risers all around the room. Two students, Aaron Eckhouse and Steven Conlow, even made and sold Obama t-shirts personalized for the school's students. They, like the majority of students I've spoken with here in Iowa, assured me they'd be caucusing tonight, the best news the Obama campaign could hear.
Maybe, just maybe, Obama's army of young supporters, all 'fired up and ready to go,' will dispel this frightening atmosphere the media loves to bring up about facing your neighbors and standing up for your own candidate. There comes a point where enough young people in one room makes them the majority and the ones able to shape the scene, not the older voters who traditionally dominate the voting process.
As he's been doing at rallies all over Iowa, Obama took a minute out of his speech to ask the crowd to raise their hands if they'd be caucusing tonight. Hardly a hand stayed down. The next question, how many people were caucusing for the first time, and more than a third of the hands went up.
The skepticism dial is being turned way up on the news right now, MSNBC is bringing on guest after guest that questions Obama's possible success, but throughout Iowa the tone is more positive, even through the biting cold. Why? Because when Obama asked his audience last night to raise their hands if they were still undecided with their caucus choice.....well, let's just say that crowd was 'Obama-friendly.'
(all photos: © 2008 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)