URBANDALE, IOWA — You've heard a lot about the 99 percent, but not nearly as much about the 41 percent. That's the amount of voters Monday's (January 2) final polling found had still not made up their minds about who they are going to vote for in the Iowa caucus on Tuesday night.
"Iowans uniquely have a chance to go out and meet the candidates, and listen to them talk. ... Each candidate has had a chance to be at the top of the polls, but none of the polls represent the 100,000 or so Iowans that will vote tomorrow night," Jeremy Danilson said about the multiple opportunities voters in his state have to get face time with candidates in the first-in-the-nation primary. "I think everyone's taking their time, wants to make the best choice that they can."
Danilson, 28, has lived in Iowa most of his life, but is participating in his first caucus Tuesday after becoming more engaged in politics during his final two years in law school. Like a lot of young voters in Iowa, he's taking the plunge after being inspired by real-life issues that are affecting his life now that he's out of school.
"I'm personally leaning towards Newt Gingrich right now," said Danilson, who has attended two debates in Iowa and met a number of candidates face-to-face more than once, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as Gingrich, with whom he's had two intimate, sit-down meetings in a small student group. "I feel like he actually understands where we are historically and where we need to go and uniquely has the ability to implement the change he's talking about."
Danilson's wife, Sara, 23, a waitress at the suburban OverTime sports bar, just finished her undergraduate degree and is actively looking for a full-time job as well. She said she got wrapped up in caucus fever because of Jeremy, but unlike her husband, with just over 24 hours to go, she had not yet decided which candidate is getting her vote.
"This is probably the first time I've really paid attention to what's going on as far as politics," she said of why the 2012 caucus has grabbed her attention. "I'm purely basing my decision off of the caucuses. I don't have a set candidate. There's nobody I'm really impressed with at this time.
"I'm excited to hear what people are going to say," she continued. "It's not going to be people working for the campaign. It's going to be real people, real Iowans, expressing how they feel about the candidates."
For Sara, who graduated in April with a B.A. in business administration, issue #1 is jobs. Specifically, what the GOP candidates will do to help her find one. "I've been applying to about everything," she said. "At first, I was kind of picky, and then I was just, 'Click, apply, click, apply,' because I can't find anything."
The couple both have student loans to start paying back soon, and they're looking for a candidate who will address the job situation and give them hope for paying off a mountain of debt that could easily overwhelm them if they can't find employment soon.
"Jobs is huge," said Jeremy, who is studying for his bar exam and working hard to find a job before he must start making loan payments in April. "I initially thought an undergrad degree would guarantee me a job. That's not the case, as Sara's struggling with that. Law school doesn't guarantee you a job either."
The time for stump speeches is over as far as Sara is concerned, and her night-of decision at a local high school auditorium will come down to the closing arguments from her friends and neighbors about the candidate they think can lead the country.
"The other thing is: I want somebody who can do more than just speak the rhetoric," Jeremy added about the nasty rhetoric that has filled the air, along with copious attack ads, in Iowa. "I need to believe that the candidate can actually accomplish what they're talking about."
Sara said she liked the tax plans for both Gingrich and Romney after doing research on the candidates' websites, while Jeremy said balancing the federal budget was another huge issue for him.
"Sara and I, we can only spend the money that we make," he said. "Why doesn't the [federal] government have to do that also? When I do get a job, I don't want to pay half my income in taxes."