I’ve arrived in Des Moines to get my first taste of the Iowa caucuses in the days ahead.   It was a beautiful day for a long drive north–through southwest Missouri where trees had been snapped by what must have been a brutal ice storm and, beginning about Kansas City, through the snow on the fields on each side of the highway.  Deepening as I moved north, the snow became truly gorgeous about the Iowa line.

I have little idea what my path will be between now and Friday, but I’ll be posting my observations and analyses this week here.   I’ll be traveling with two of my graduate school pals: Tom Schaller (author of Whistling Past Dixie who’ll be writing for the American Prospect) and Jonathan Weiler (who’ll be posting for AlterNet).  I appreciate Max providing the venue where I can spout my opinions.  Later in the week, the Times should have another observer arriving here on the ground.   We’ll try to get as much turf covered as possible in what promises to be a huge political drama with various Arkansas-related subplots.

In a bit, I’m heading to an Obama event here in Des Moines.   More soon.

PS — This is Jay’s post, but I’m Max, butting in to add a photo my daughter Martha took at the Hamburg Inn in Iowa City today. That’s a CNN cameraman photographing votes in the “coffee bean caucus.”  Iowa City is considered a Democratic stronghold (Obama is very well liked in the university town), so I’d think the bean count would reflect that preference. Martha is traveling with a group of friends of Chelsea Clinton from LR, D.C. and college days who are spending the week campaigning for Sen. Clinton. John Williams of the Times staff will soon be on the ground in Iowa, too, with live blog reports.