January 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Iowans take their caucuses seriously

Ron Paul (photo by R DeYoung via wikimedia)

DES MOINES, Iowa — One thing that’s unique about Iowa in the days before the caucuses is how seriously the people here take their role in vetting the presidential candidates.

It seems like everywhere I go, people are gathered in groups discussing the contenders and which one best represents their views.

While waiting yesterday in the Holiday Inn lobby for a hotel shuttle to take me to a Ron Paul event, I overheard a group of people carrying luggage and talking about each of the candidates.

On the way to the event, the shuttle driver asked me what time Paul was speaking. I informed him he was set to appear on stage with his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at 11:15 a.m. The driver said he was disappointed it was so early because he would have come to see the candidate if he were speaking later in the afternoon.


At the Paul event, one Republican was on his cell phone behind me talking about how he just returned from seeing Rick Santorum in Polk City. The caller encouraged the person on the other end of the line to check out each of the candidates with him.

After the event, I grabbed a sandwich at a nearby Quizno’s. One person in the group at the table next to mine was chiding a friend for saying he won’t support a particular presidential who opposes same-sex marriage. Apparently, this person didn’t think opposition to marriage equality was a worthy factor to weigh in consideration of a candidate.

I encountered the same thing when I stopped at a local gay bar for a drink to cap off the night. (OK, it wasn’t a gay bar, but the bartender was really cute and I was told he had a boyfriend.) A trio sitting near me was running through the list of candidates. One speculated that Paul would be the one who would eke out a victory during the caucuses.

I’ve never meandered into so many political conservations, even in D.C., where politics is the town business. It’s good to know that the people here understand it’s an important task to weigh in first on the candidates, one of whom could potentially go on to lead the nation.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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