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Mark Shields - Friday morning quarterbacks from Iowa

On the night of Jan. 3, 2008, two major national events will take place. In New Orleans, Ohio State will play Louisiana State University in the national championship football game, and across the state of Iowa, the first-in-the-nation contest to nominate the major party nominees for president will be held. If the past is precedent, the college football game will result in a single winner, while the Iowa caucuses will manage to produce multiple "winners":

Jan. 4, 2008, Des Moines

The by-now universally respected strategist for the Candidate who runs first in the Thursday night balloting:

"Here in Iowa, the very middle of Middle America - with one Democratic and one Republican U.S. senator - with independent voters who chose to re-elect both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - where more citizens graduate from high school and from college, attend church weekly and vote more regularly than do their fellow Americans, this truly proved once again to be the ideal first test-by-fire to choose the next president. If we can win here, we can win anywhere!"

The obviously embittered and crestfallen spokesperson for the Candidate who had expected to win and who did not:

"History tells us there are 'three tickets' out of Iowa, and we have one of them. I would remind those in the press that in 1988, both of the eventual nominees Michael Dukakis and George H. W. Bush, finished third in the Iowa caucuses behind, respectively, 'presidents' Gephardt and Dole. We have said all along that this campaign is about winning delegates to the national convention. There will be 4,339 delegates to the Denver convention next August and there was a grand total of 56 at stake in Iowa. This wasn't even spring training, let alone the first inning. We're in this for the long haul."

The media Wise Man whose widely amplified predictions on cable-TV about which candidates would win the Iowa caucuses were totally wrong:

"What irrational fools decreed that such a significant process begin in this isolationist, insular backwater? What, after all, can we expect from a place where there are five and a half times as many pigs as there are people, where the biggest city, Des Moines, the state capital, has fewer residents than Chula Vista, Calif., Plano, Texas, or Hialeah, Fla.? There are more African Americans in the NFL than there are in Iowa. This state actually boasts that it leads the nation in production of soybeans. I am sick of all the smiles and the politeness. You can have Iowa 'nice.' I cannot wait to have this place in my rear-view mirror and to return to civilization - which is located in the Eastern Time Zone."

The nationally syndicated pressie who very luckily picked the upset winner: "Iowans are very special people who have worked hard to make their home state a very special place. Let it be noted that Iowa has been judged - based on factors such as education, unemployment, crime rate - the nation's sixth most livable state as well as the U.S.'s ninth smartest. Iowans take their politics, their patriotism - but not themselves - seriously. They insist on meeting the candidates - without their pricey consultants or prepared texts - face-to-face. These Hawkeyes are not easily fooled by either a dark November sky or a glib Washington huckster. Their decision, which today made headlines in Berlin, Beirut and Beijing, are not to be taken lightly because that decision was not lightly made by Iowans who understand and who accept responsibility."

At least one perfectly modulated runner-up in the Edward R. Murrow sound-alike contest will intone:

"Something important is happening in this land of ours when thousands of ordinary Americans get up from their supper table, bundle up against the arctic night air and trudge on icy paths to the library or schoolhouse to debate with neighbors the direction and the destiny of this land they love. Maybe, just maybe, here in Iowa in January of 2008, we have witnessed the arrival of the We Generation and the death of the Me Generation."

At least in the New Orleans football game, there will be just one winner and one loser, and no fourth-place "better than expecteds."

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.