Bob Dylan's guide to Iowa

"Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?"

By Walter Shapiro
January 2, 2008 6:33AM (UTC)
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Anyone who claims to know the results of Thursday night's Iowa caucuses has proven by the audacity of the boast to be a fraud. Caucuses have always been difficult to poll at any time -- and many pollsters question whether it is possible to find a valid sample between Christmas and New Year's. Even for political veterans, there are too many puzzling events. The mood of the press pack in Iowa might be summarized by the Bob Dylan lyric: "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?"

At noon on New Year's Day -- when the two dominant themes in human existence are hangovers and football -- Joe Biden attracted more than 500 Democrats to a restaurant rally in Des Moines. He then spoke to another packed room (150 people) in Indianola. Making his final plea in Indianola, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee declared, "On caucus night, if you stand up for Joe Biden, you'll be surprised by how many people stand up with you."


David Wilhelm -- Bill Clinton's first chairman of the Democratic National Committee -- has been accompanying Biden on his long-shot quest. After the Indianola speech, Wilhelm shook his head in wonder and said, "These are not the crowds of a guy at 4 percent in the polls. What am I missing? You can feel it and see it when a campaign is dying. And this one feels alive."

Walter Shapiro

Walter Shapiro, a Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, is an award-winning political columnist who has covered the last nine presidential campaigns. Along the way, he has worked as Salon's Washington bureau chief, as well as for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Esquire, USA Today and, most recently, Yahoo News. He is also a lecturer in political science at Yale University. He can be reached by email at and followed on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

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2008 Elections Joe Biden