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AMES -- The speaking program has ended. There is three hours of a goodly nothing to do. The results will be unveiled at 7:00 CT.

The parking lots emptied by about a third, with more and more folks trickling out. Still, thousands of souls are braving the heat, picking over bar-b-q leftovers and chugging down what must be gallons of water. Kids are clustered around Sam Brownback's snow cone machine. Both Brownback and Mitt Romney rented identical rock climbing walls.

The press is mostly indoors, waiting, cutting packages for local newscasts, writing the guts of their stories or calling their spouses. One exception is the New York Times's Michael Luo, who is always interviewing Iowans; at this point, he must have interviewed, oh, about 40 percent of everyone here. He doesn't seem to sweat either -- perhaps there is some special cream that the Times gives to its young political correspondents.

Teenagers and young adults are ambling around the grounds, stopping to see if any of the outside groups that spent thousands to purchase space here have any more free stuff.

The candidates themselves are cloistered either in air-conditioned office space or in their tricked out recreational vehicles.

ED in 08 has the only tent where lines of people snake out towards the roadway. But that's probably because they trucked in what most be a quarter of a ton of delicious ice cream -- three flavors to choose from! ED in 08 is also auctioning off an i-Pod and other paraphernalia. For those who showed up wearing dark clothing -- ahem, Mr. Romney -- the free ED tee-shirts are cotton and white.

The ONE campaign, the non-partisan pro-health anti-poverty lobby, proved its special status once again. They were the only non-Republican group alloted time in the speaking program. In effect, they sponsored the national anthem.

Also seen at Ames: the chronic disease coalition folks. The NRA. The Fairtax folks. The American Medical Association. Some guy who wrote a book about the Woodrow Wilson White House. The Iowa Democratic Party. Voting machine technology protesters. Paramedics on golf carts. The state home school coalition.

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