Iowa Democrats have watched for months as Republicans have basked in the spotlight, and on Caucus night Tuesday the glare will only intensify.
With all GOP candidates, GOP issues and GOP-dominated news cycles, you'd expect Democrats to be feeling a little left out, yearning for their invitation to the party right about now. But, they aren't. Or, at least, they won't admit to it.
"I don't mind at all. They're doing a fantastic job of killing themselves, and I think we ought to let them have at it," said Pat Sass, chairwoman of the Black Hawk County Democrats.
Tom Carsner, a Democratic activist in Iowa City, put it slightly differently.
"It's like being on the sidelines of a football game on defense," Carsner said.
To keep with the football analogy, you might say Democrats have a bye week heading into the playoffs. It's always fun to watch your team play, but fans can take heart knowing they have a little more time to prepare while your eventual opponent risks injuries and exposing flaws in their game.
"I think Obama will make mincemeat of the eventual nominee," Carsner said.
Democrats Enjoying Wild Race
Democrats are observing with interest (if not a little scorn, too) the wildest race for the GOP nomination in recent memory.
"I don't know if it matters from the Democrats' standpoint who comes out of this. It is interesting from a political junky's point of view. Everyone is interested to see what will happen," said Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky.
Democrats haven't had much to do this Caucus season with incumbent President Barack Obama a lock for the November general election ballot.
"I have no problem with it being quiet on the Democratic side right now, at least publicly. Privately, Obama for America is still organizing and getting the ground work ready for 2012," said Scott Syroka, 17, a young Democratic activist from Johnston.
Caitlin Copper-Leehey, 23, a first-year law student at Drake University in Des Moines, said when it's time to get to work she will be ready.
"There really isn't a lot of mobilizing right now. I am standing by my candidate in support until it's time to go door knocking," she said.
Democrats Quietly Organizing, Recruiting for General Election
Meanwhile, party activists have been busy doing the "not glamorous, not sexy" field work, as Dvorsky put it.
Dvorsky said she has been traveling across the state since April, and regularly offers up statements that challenge the GOP field, .
While Democratic caucuses on Tuesday are mainly a formality, they will serve as an opportunity to line up volunteers and energize the party. There is a movement within the party to caucus uncommitted in protest of Obama, but it is not expected to be much of a factor. Obama plans to address Democrats via telecast during the first portion of the Caucuses on Tuesday.
All 1,774 precincts will be active on Tuesday, although Dvorsky declined to estimate turnout.
Carsner, who is a precinct captain in Iowa City, said he is expecting 10 to 25 percent of the 700 people who showed up at his caucus in 2008.
"We will have thousands of Democrats out on that night," Dvorsky said. "When we make the next ask of them, they will be ready," Dvorsky said.
Democrats Waiting for GOP Nominee
Once Republicans select a nominee, Democrats can begin field work in earnest.
While Iowa will fade from the public consciousness for a while after the caucuses are over, Iowa Republicans and Democrats will have plenty to do and get plenty of attention again in this swing state leading up to the general election.
"Iowa will be one of those states a lot of people are paying attention to. It's never been decided by more than a few points," Carsner said.