I called one of my sisters and asked who she was voting for in the caucuses. Lucky thing I did, as she had thought the caucuses were on the 26th instead of tomorrow night. My sister voted for Steve Forbes four years ago in the Republican caucuses, and she is now a committed anti-Bush voter.
Who is she voting for? "Kerry. He's the one that served in Vietnam right?" The two things that have swayed her to Kerry are that (1) "he served our country, and then came back and said we need to get out of there" and (2) his views on health care, which she said was based on hearing his ad his son who had cancer [I just looked this up and it was actually Gephardt's son who had cancer; Kerry himself has had cancer; both are running ads where they use their personal experiences to talk about their aspirations for health care policy].
She also liked Edwards, but said "he just looks too young. I don't think he would win." I asked her if she thought he might get some of the sitcom-and-sentimentality vote because of his uncanny resemblence to the widely beloved and supposedly dead John Ritter, but she replied that she hadn't noticed the resemblence and didn't know why I was suggesting that there was any doubt as to whether John Ritter was dead.
The more interesting thing is that my sister actually went to hear Dean speak 2 or 3 months ago (in Cedar Falls), and when I talked to her afterwards then she was very enthusiastic about him. Now? "I don't care for him anymore... I don't think he can win against Bush... He's not always consistent with what he says."
My sister said she had also talked to my other Iowa-dwelling sister yesterday and that sister is also voting for Kerry. So Kerry is now running away with the Freese family vote.
Serious postscript: There is an actual conclusion to be drawn here that I haven't seen anywhere in the discussions by various pundits who have been trying to explain Kerry's surge in Iowa. What I've seen are explanations that are based in terms of something that Kerry has done lately (his tax plan, his stump speeches in the state, whatever). An alternative would be that a lot of Iowa voters were not paying the same kind of continual attention to the race that political junkies and political reporters were. Now that they are paying attention, Kerry's military record, which people had always thought would give him a big edge, may indeed finally be giving him a big edge.
Update, next day: A reader from Not Iowa, IA, e-mails: "I was reading your blog entry about the caucuses and it reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad over break where he told me, "I don't like that Howard Dean. He's a smug one, that guy. If he gets the nomination, I think I'll vote for Bush." My parents have been democrats for as long as I can remember. "