It happens every morning. You can even set your watches to it. The coffee clubs settle into their tables at the Tremont Grille.
The café sits along Main Street in Marshalltown, a community that in many ways reflects Iowa, with its farm heritage, a growing immigrant population and residents who are split between Republicans and Democrats and willing to let you know what they think.
The coffee-drinking regulars at the Tremont include an author, several teachers, a college professor, a farmer, a newspaper publisher. They are Republicans, Democrats and independents. And they are in their 50s, 60s and 70s — somewhere near the average age of caucus-goers in Iowa.
These days, the coffee regulars say they can't watch television without seeing endless presidential campaign ads. They can't eat dinner in peace because the phone keeps ringing, with campaigns calling to try and win them over.
But they're all inspecting the candidates closely as the caucuses approach. And they say they would never give up the special role they play, as Iowans, giving an early and important seal of approval to a Republican and a Democrat — sending the candidates on to other states and other battles.