It’s official!  Small pockets of Iowans have emerged from their smoke-filled back rooms and declared that John Kerry shall lead the Democratic Party in 2004.  Senator Kerry will undoubtedly now speak to past Iowa Caucus winners Tom Harkin (1992), Richard Gephardt (1988), and Uncommitted (1976), about how their victories propelled them to the Democratic Party’s nomination for President.

Of all the caucuses (caucusii?) in the country, the Iowa Caucus is traditionally the most important.  It is so important, in fact, that only about a quarter of the candidates decided to skip the contest entirely this year.  A small factor like candidate apathy wasn’t able to keep the national media away, however, because this is the first caucus of 2004, and therefore a VERY BIG DEAL.  This is the first opportunity for the press to officially begin their hobby of building candidates up and then tearing them down.

This means that for the past two weeks, any John Q. Iowa who wanted a morning cup of coffee had to wade through an ocean of national media people shouting questions about John F. Kerry’s hair.  This unique experience probably had John Q. Iowa thinking, “Why couldn’t we be the SECOND caucus in the country….and how did these reporters get into my kitchen?”

Well rest easy, Mr. Iowa.  The most famous of the caucusii has ended.  You and your fellow caucusers have performed your national duty by crushing the spirit of the candidates who considered Iowa a “must-win” situation (paging Mr. Gephardt…Mr. Gephardt to the white courtesy phone please).

Iowans can return to being completely ignored by the national media for another four years now that the flocks of reporters have migrated east to cover the nation’s first Presidential Primary.  The media hordes will now pester the residents of Dixville Notch, NH, about Senator Lieberman’s teeth (Are they “Presidential” enough?).

Primaries are different from caucuses because in primaries, voters can decide that it’s too cold to bother voting at official polling places, as opposed to being too lazy to caucus in their neighbor’s basements.

If Senator Kerry’s hair should be fortunate enough to win the New Hampshire Primary, his future as a national party nominee will be assured, as were the futures of past New Hampshire winners John McCain (2000), Pat Buchanan (1996), and Paul Tsongas (1992).

If they can survive January 27th in New Hampshire, the next major milestone for the Democratic hopefuls is known as “Super Tuesday”.  “Super Tuesday” this year is on March 2nd, and it will feature super primaries and caucuses in eleven states, including Massachusetts.  This is not to be confused with “Fair to Middling Tuesday”, February 3rd, when 7 states will hold primaries and caucuses that are nothing out of the ordinary.

The great campaign has officially begun.  Hands are being shaken, babies are being kissed, and empty promises are being made.  The candidates are trying to attack one another without seeming “mean-spirited”.  The impartial national media is exerting influence on people’s voting decisions.  John F. Kerry is riding high, Howard Dean is screaming, and the Patriots are in the Super Bowl.  I am Tim McCaffrey, and I have authorized this column.