Who's Leading the Beer Caucus? The countdown is on for the Iowa caucuses and there are all sorts of "official" polls trying to get a sense of which candidates the voters will choose. Then there's the Beer Caucus, held every Monday night at the Court Avenue Brewery in Des Moines.
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Who's Leading the Beer Caucus?

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Who's Leading the Beer Caucus?

Who's Leading the Beer Caucus?

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Back now with DAY TO DAY.

Earlier in the show, we heard from NPR's Ron Elving about all the latest polls and endorsements in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. Well, I just got back from Des Moines, where I discovered a much more fun approach to gauging who will fare the best come January 3rd - a beer poll.

Every Monday night they hold a caucus at the Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company in downtown Des Moines. When I caught up with manager Jennifer Woodman there last Monday, she told me they've been doing this since August.

And why do you caucus Mondays in the first place? Is this a political establishment here in Des Moines?

Ms. JENNIFER WOODMAN (Manager): No, we just did it for fun. Even though you're not supposed to mix beer and politics, people do it anyway. So we figure, you know, why not just create an environment where people can do that easily?

COHEN: Here's how it works. Order a beer, get a wooden token, then place that token in any one of the small plastic boxes labeled with the candidate's name and political affiliation. With so many candidates on both sides, it was impractical to have boxes for all the candidates, so Jennifer told me they limited it to the top three on each side, and a ceramic mug for write-in candidates. That mug, she said, is how they wound up with a fourth Democratic candidate besides Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

Ms. WOODMAN: Most of the people in this room right now are campaign workers from the Bill Richardson campaign. They started coming in and they were voting every week, and we could not deny them any longer, so Bill Richardson has his own box.

COHEN: According to their most recent Monday night poll, Richardson leads Obama by six percentage points, which tells you a bit about the people behind the New Mexico governor's campaign. They like to drink.

Server Jennifer Locke(ph).

Ms. JENNIFER LOCKE: Just week after week they - they just getting more excited about the change in the percentage and how they're growing. And it - it's just - it's exciting for me to see them get so thrilled over just a bar poll and seeing how far they've come with it.

COHEN: Locke says it's easy to tell who works for Bill Richardson.

Ms. LOCKE: The Bill Richardson group are just a great group of a lot of young go-getters. They're very dedicated to what they're doing. They're really excited about the cause. Richardson has been in here a couple of times for dinner; of course the only times I've not been working. And I've always wanted to ask him just what is it about him that gets these guys so fired up.

COHEN: Looking around the room, it was hard for me to tell the difference between the campaign's quaffing cocktails and beer. Surprisingly, only a few wore buttons endorsing their candidates.

But Locke says for her it's easy: it's all about the order. This staffer likes hefeweizen; that one drinks Diet Cokes all night. There's a guy on the Obama campaign, she tells me, who always orders the spinach salad with black beans on the side.

Ms. LUCKY: Barack Obama people tend to be more subtle. When they come in, they just come in, they get something to eat, they get something to drink. They're not drawing a whole lot of attention.

COHEN: Every Monday night, Locke says, she casts her vote for Bill Richardson because his staff are her favorite customers. As for the real caucus, she says, she's still undecided.

Like many Iowans, customer Tim Gannon(ph) says he's trying to learn more about the candidates by going to see them in person.

Mr. TIM GANNON: I ran into Hillary Clinton in a restaurant one night. I went to see Barack Obama and Oprah. I went to see Mike Huckabee. I went to see Mitt Romney. I'm going to see Mitt Romney again tomorrow. Rudy Giuliani...

COHEN: That night Gannon cast his wooden token for a write-in candidate, Al Gore.

Do you have any idea where you're leaning or who you are leaning towards at this point?

Mr. GANNON: I really don't. I'll probably go undecided until between Christmas and New Year's, which having worked on campaigns before, I know, you know, it doesn't make the people working on campaigns now feel good.

COHEN: There is just three caucus Mondays left before the real Iowa caucuses happen. The final one should see plenty of voter turnout. It takes place on New Year's Eve.

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