Political Journalists Ring in 2008 in Iowa

Political journalists more accustomed to spending New Year's Eve at an inside-the-beltway Washington, D.C., soiree, or a trendy New York bar, are flocking to the new place to ring in 2008 — Iowa.

Due to an earlier-than-ever caucus date of Jan. 3, presidential contenders — and the political journalists who trail them — will be clinking champagne glasses at midnight this New Year's Eve in Iowa.

That's made the Midwestern state the place to be and to be seen today for an estimated 2,000 journalists, including 100 foreign journalists from more than 25 different countries.

Anne Dickerson, a television producer and wife of Slate's chief political correspondent, John Dickerson, left her two small children with their grandparents, so she could spend New Year's Eve with her husband in Iowa's capital city, Des Moines.

"We've been joking this is like a second honeymoon," she said.

'Completely Booked'

But the couple soon found out that getting a table in Des Moines this New Year's Eve rivals getting a reservation at a New York City hot spot.

"I called three weeks ago for reservations," she said. "All of the top restaurants are completely booked."

The Dickersons finally snagged a 7 p.m. dinner-for-two reservation at 801 Steak and Chophouse, an upscale Iowa steak restaurant in downtown Des Moines.

Other journalists made their New Year's Eve Iowa party plans much earlier.

The day the caucus date was finalized, Mark Barabak, political reporter for the Los Angeles Times, reserved a table for friends at Lucca, an Italian restaurant in Des Moines' new trendy East Village neighborhood.

"We started out with a party of eight, and upped it to 20 when they cut me off for space considerations," he said.

More than 450 journalists have RSVPed to attend the Raucous Before the Caucus media party at the Temple for Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines — it's hosted by Carrie Giddins and Mary Tiffany, the communications directors of the Iowa Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Iowa, respectively.

"Because the eyes of the world are on us, we recognize the importance of making sure everyone feels at home on New Year's Eve," Giddins said, noting that she and Tiffany are good friends and planned the media party on their own.

Iowa businesses have chipped in to sponsor the event. For $25 at the door, an expected 600 journalists will ring in 2008 with an open bar, a local band called Ashanti Jazz and authentic Iowa cuisine.

"We'll have Maytag blue cheese, Maid-Rite luncheon meat, Pella Dutch letters, pork chops, an all-corn table, with corn relish and corn salsa, cob corn, Iowa State Fair foods, like mini-corn dogs, mini-deep fried Twinkies and kettle corn," Giddins said.

After going out for a Mexican dinner in Des Moines, Washington Post political reporter Anne Kornblut said she's going to the media party for the Iowa State Fair food. "More corn dogs!" she said.

However, Adam Nagourney, chief political correspondent for The New York Times, said he's not one for parties.

"I don't like parties, I'm a misanthrope," Nagourney said. The veteran political journalist said he will, instead, take advantage of the new trendy restaurants in the city and have dinner with a small group of Iowa and New York friends.

Political Tourists

This year some city dwellers are coming to Iowa as political tourists.

Claudia Zelevansky, a theater and film director, and her friends came to Iowa from New York City seeking an alternative New Year's Eve.

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