Two more Barack Obama data points worth noting:

  • The Los Angeles Times' Seema Mehta reports that Iowa City college students are organizing to disperse themselves across the state for Obama in an effort to turn the problem of the early caucus date into a campaign boon:

    "Hawkeyes for Obama" has named "hometown caucus captains" across the state.

    These volunteers are assigned a group of students who are originally from their hometowns, and meet with them on campus during the school year.

    Over winter break, "we'll keep in touch with them, make sure they know where their precinct caucus location is, and make sure they go out to the caucus," said Andrew Wiese, co-chairman of the campus group and a senior from Cedar Rapids. "We're planning on doing whatever we can to make sure supporters go out and go to the caucus over the break."...

    More than 5,000 University of Iowa students are Illinois residents, a pool of potential Obama supporters who must return to campus to vote. Hawkeyes for Obama is setting up carpools between Illinois and Iowa City, and trying to find couches for students to crash on after the caucus.

  • And Dan Balz looks at Hillary Clinton's position in Iowa in light of the events of 2004 and her less than stellar level of support as potential caucus-goers' second choice candidate:

    Even in the depths of Kerry's problems, when his campaign was sliding downward, his advisers took heart from that fact that he seemed acceptable across the entire spectrum of the party in Iowa. When Howard Dean began to slip, it was easy for many Iowa Democrats to shift to Kerry. It's not clear that will happen for Clinton.

    On the other hand:

    When Dean imploded, Iowa Democrats turned to Kerry not because they found him the most likable candidate but because they thought he would be their strongest general election candidate and because they believed he had the right experience to be president.

    On those attributes, Clinton continues to dominate the Democratic race.

    Indeed. The "experience" question was critical in Kerry's 2004 Iowa victory, according to the ABC News caucus entrance poll analysis:

    Kerry whaled among caucus goers looking for a candidate with the "right experience"; while it ranked only fourth on the attributes list, cited by 15 percent, he won the initial support of a huge 71 percent of those who cited it.

    Clinton is doubtless trying to repeat that success with the experience-minded fraction of caucus-goers, which is why it is so important for her and Obama to call each other's experience credentials into question.

--Garance Franke-Ruta