Well, it's finally here. The Iowa caucuses kick off this morning and what may be one of America's strangest political traditions is already leaving casualties.
The Politico is reporting that sources close to Fred Thompson say it is likely the Big Sleep will drop out of the race in the next few days if he finishes poorly in Iowa, which is all but assured now.
"Without a solid third-place finish, there's no point in going on," a Thompson adviser said Wednesday. "It was an honorable race, and he turned out to be a good candidate. The moment had just passed."
A good candidate? The guy came, he saw, he feel asleep. He may be the biggest disappointment since New Coke! He's taken to bashing the press for labeling him as lazy but the dude held ONE campaign event on New Year's Day while everyone else was out hustling in the cold for every vote they can get. The truth hurts, don't it, Fred?
In other Iowa news, the most recent Zogby poll (and the last before the caucuses kick off) had Hillary Clinton dropping to third place behind Obama and Edwards. I find that hard to believe, but you never know how that cold Iowa wind will blow in the final moments before people go stand under their favorite sign.
The Zogby numbers: Democrats: Obama 31% (+3) Edwards 27% (+1) Clinton 24% (-4) Richardson 7% (+0) Biden 5% (+1) Republicans: Huckabee 31% (+3) Romney 25% (+1) Thompson 11% (-1) McCain 10% (-2) Paul 10% (+1) Giuliani 6% (-1)
New polling from Franklin Pierce college shows Hillary Clinton barely in the lead in New Hampshire with trending going down 4% while Obama (just 4 points back) gaining with +10 over the last poll taken in September. That same poll shows McCain showing an amazing resurgence leading Romney by six points, which is a gain of 23 (!!!) since September.
The Iowa caucus is odd in that the voters actually gather in a room and stand under the sign of the candidate they support. What's more, you get a second vote and can switch allegiance if your first choice candidate looks to have no chance of winning. That's why you hear candidates telling their supporters who to back if they should not have a good showing. It's also why campaigns leak stories about imminent campaign closures and possible endorsements so their supporters can jump to another ship on the second round.
Stay tuned. This should be fun.
UPDATE: Thompson denies he's quitting.
Here's what he had to say in an interview this morning with KCCI-TV in Des Moines:
"That is absolutely made up out of whole cloth," said the former U.S. Senator from Tennessee.
Thompson said a rival campaign was likely the source of that rumor.
"Can you imagine such a thing in politics?" he asked.
But it's hard to imagine him going beyond New Hampshire if he has poor showings in both early states. And whether he likes it or not, politicing in those early primaries is still very much a personal thing that requires a lot of baby kissing, glad handing, and political favors.