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« Politics Nation: Heretic | Blog Home Page | More Than 220K Turn Out »

Turnout Way Up In South Des Moines

DES MOINES -- The Society of Italian Americans played host tonight to hundreds of Democrats from south Des Moines, and judging from just one of the 1781 precincts around Iowa, turnout will shatter any previous records. With just fifteen minutes to go before the party-imposed 7pm deadline, nearly fifty people remained in line to register. "I happen to know that we have a theoretical capacity," caucus chairman Max Nauer joked. "And I don't think our fire fighters would want to know that."

On one side of the room, fans of Hillary Clinton are mostly older, and mostly women. Barack Obama's fans sit across the room, made up more of younger voters who nonetheless showed up early enough to win front-row seats. In the middle, John Edwards and Joe Biden supporters hoped to win one of the eight delegates at stake. The credentials are uncomplicated: Gold badges denote eligible caucusers; red badges identify observers and press.

The system is far from perfect. "We ran out of badges," Nauer said. "That shows the success on this January night." 146 people caucused here in 2004. This year, 254 boiled in chairs, and despite temperatures hovering in the twenties, windows were thrown open. It will take 38 caucus-goers backing a candidate for that candidate to remain viable.

Candidates' representatives are given two minutes each to sway the crowd. Afterwards, supporters will break off to gauge numbers. More updates after round one. It could be a long night: John Edwards' representative, speaking first, took a liberal interpretation.