The Feel Of The Ground: The Republicans

** The weather is going to be as good as it gets for a January in Iowa. Very conducive to a high-turnout caucus.

** The enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans is evident even in these separate, partisan caucuses. Iowa is a swing state; Republican activists I've spoken with are pessimistic that any Republican could win here in 2008.

** John McCain returns to the state today, and there's a good change he finishes in third or fourth place. I do think that polls may overstate his caucus support in that his organization here just isn't that robust and the multiplier effect that organizations tend to have will be limited. Still -- there's a good possibility he finishes third. That would be an amazing accomplishment, and he might be one of the three or so stories the press has the attention span to cover out of Iowa.

** Conversely, Fred Thompson's support may be understated in the polls...his organization seems to be larger than McCain's.

** It's hard to say whether the enthusiasm accompanying Mike Huckabee from event-to-event -- he drew 2000 at one step yesterday -- will translate into success at the caucuses. His Iowa organization still seems rather bare-bones, and the outside groups that are supposed to be helping him seem to be incompetent. The total unknown is the work of the informal network of pastors who've been touting Huckabee's virtues... but if folks at his events don't know where to caucus, or when to show up, then as much as they like him, he'll leave their love in Iowa. Another possibility: the polls understate his support, because evangelicals are among the groups who don't like to talk to pollsters.