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Iowa’s important ‘undecideds’

As caucus day fast approaches, the candidates and their loyal constituents are locked and loaded.   But the key to the race can be found in the hearts, minds and ballots of some 30,000 Iowans:  the undecideds.   NBC’s Tom Brokaw reports.

As Iowa caucus day fast approaches, candidates and their loyal constituents are locked and loaded — their platforms and positions, well defined.

But the key to this race can be found somewhere else — in the hearts, minds and choices of the “undecideds.”

According to Mary Van Zante: “I have pretty much settled on John Edwards or John Kerry.”

Gary Brown said: “I am leaning toward either Howard Dean or John Edwards.”

Joe Hamshmall added: “I’m an undecided voter at this point.”

One-third of the likely caucus-goers are still undecided, and they could be the key to Monday’s outcome.

We asked The Des Moines Register’s longtime political reporter David Yepsen to characterize the undecided voters?  Are they the more traditional Democrats, older maybe?

“Yeah, I think the undecided voter is the more traditional Democrat, an older Democrat.  These are Democrats that generally want to win, and they’re very upset with George Bush for a variety of reasons,” Yepsen said.

Working woman
Democrat Mary Van Zante is a manager at the Pella Window Corp.  She’s also a mother and the wife of a farmer.  She’s still deciding whether John Edwards or John Kerry will best change her life.

She worries about bringing the country together and thinks America’s divided up into different parts right now.

“I think we are. I think we’re looking at a generation gap. One generation asking of things at the expense of another generation.

I think there’s an economic divide, I think there’s a business and labor divide,” Van Zante said.

First election
This is political science major Joe Hamshmall’s first election. Candidates on campus and on the Web are helping Hamshmalldecide. It’s down to three, but he’s impressed with Howard Dean’s Internet campaign.

“He posts a lot more content on his site than anyone else, and he gets a lot more responses on his Web blog than any other candidate … and that’s important to me,” Hamshmall said.

On unemployment
Gary Brown was forced to quit his job when renal failure and 18 weekly hours of dialysis made him too ill to work.  Insurance is helping a bit.  “I don’t know what I’m going to do after the 11-month extension,” said Brown.

Gary will spend the balance of this weekend deciding which candidate’s health care policy will get his vote.  “I have the right to have an opinion, and I believe that all Americans should stand up for what they believe in and that we should be heard,” Brown added.

“We really are talking about something that’s grass-roots democracy 101. Sort of the purist form of democracy,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer.

Here in Iowa, it’s going to be a long weekend — and these undecided voters will get a lot of attention. We’ll check back Monday to see which candidates get their votes.