Hello from Iowa

Less than two weeks before the Iowa caucus, the nation’s initial 2004 Democratic presidential election litmus test, we’ve heard from our contact in Des Moines, Chicoan Liz Gardner, who is there working for the campaign of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

On Jan. 19, the nearly 2,000 precincts in Iowa each host a caucus to elect delegates, alternates and convention committee members to the county conventions. Each delegate represents a percentage of support from his or her precinct for a presidential candidate.

Wishing to stay in the forefront—and on the front page—of presidential politics, the Iowa state code mandates the caucuses be held on a Monday evening eight days prior to any other state’s nominating event.

“I find myself working with 22-year-old power hitters from the [Paul] Wellstone and Hillary Clinton campaigns,” Gardner reported via e-mail, noting a discernible lack of persons her age in the Kucinich camp

“What’s missing here: My age group,” she wrote. “The 30-something generation is not working with the campaign. Or rather, I have yet to encounter my age group in the campaign.

“Supporters, volunteers, interns and staffers range from early teens, 20-29-year-olds, then picks up again [with] 40-50 year-olds and on up into 80-year-olds. I guess I am lucky to have the flexibility in my life to work 9- to 15-hour days, but in general my age group has not been very present in this campaign. I’m not sure about the Dean campaign. Maybe they’re all over there.”

Gardner said included in the Kucinich volunteers is “a puppeteer and accordion player who at 27 has written a folk song for Kucinich that she plays at various Kucinich functions and events around the state.”

The folk singer is in good company; at the beginning of the year Willie Nelson debuted an anti-war song dedicated to the Kucinich campaign during a fundraiser in Austin, Texas.

“Ten of us battled the freezing snow and wind and rallied outside the Des Moines Register debate vying for a corner of any camera frame that would have us,” Gardner wrote this week. “Our volunteer accordion player and puppeteer Lauren Halderman came; we all tried to our best to counter bullhorns and hundreds of Dean, Kerry and Edward supports and sang Lauren’s folk song.”

Displaying a good measure of the optimism needed to remain a Kucinich supporter in the wake of Howard Dean’s growing popularity, Gardner continues to look for the bright side.

"Even if there is a major media blackout with our candidate," she wrote, "the good news is that, of the five Democratic candidates here (Kucinich, Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt), Kucinich is the only candidate who has 11 billboards up in the Des Moines incorporated area for the presidential-horserace-weary Iowans."