There Ain’t No Party Like a Des Moines, Iowa Party Because a Des Moines, Iowa Party Don’t Stop

There’s a reason they call political parties parties , and not just groups or organizations or clans. Because in some political arenas, it’s less about who can pound the most gavels than who can pound the most brewskis. Policy making? That’s just what happens between ragers.

A handful of presidential candidates threw New Year’s parties in Des Moines, practically demanding that we compare and contrast:

Mike Huckabee threw a true blowout. Hosted by Des Moine’s Wakonda Club , the shindig looked like it cost about as much as Huckabee’s first quarter fundraising totals. A besuited band played Glenn Miller on stage while country club types munched on egg rolls and beef skewers. The best part: Janet Huckabee. Charming, self-deprecating, impassioned. Why haven’t we seen more of her?

Replace the chandeliers with Christmas lights, the jazz band with a local outfit called Who’s Your Daddy, and the crab cakes with potato skins and you’ve got Bill Richardson ‘s party. Fiesta HQ was the the ballroom at the Quality Inn, one of the more suspiciously-named hotel chains. The crowd seemed as western as Huckabee’s was southern: Volunteers had come from Las Vegas, Arizona, and of course New Mexico. I listened in while a tall man in a yellow shirt and ten gallon  discursed on the economics of livestock.

Mitt Romney ‘s party was billed as a family event, with more screaming babies and balloon animals than mingling politicos. Newsweek ‘s Andrew Romano bore the full brunt of the event. I skated in at the end, but not too late to see a fat, aging clown named “Jelly Bean” working the last remnants of the crowd in red suspenders, a yellow striped shirt, and purple Chuck Taylors.

The Hillary Clinton party is everything you’d expect: Big, produced, flavorless. A huge flag and Christmas tree suggest a generous budget. Everyone I talk to seems a little on edge, almost as if the caucus were  three days away. Music comes care of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, who seemed to played one song from the 90s on a loop the entire time. “What a perfect metaphor,” said one observant newspaperman.

John Edwards ’ karaoke party has everything such a party needs except karaoke and John Edwards. Attendees take turns ogling Madeleine Stowe , who you may remember from The Last of the Mohicans . After a year trailing the most famous politicians in the country, everyone is suddenly starstruck. Perhaps Edwards found her through his pal Kevin Bacon.

Photos on their way, pending technological competence.