As we head into the final hours before the Iowa caucus, the focus turns to that most elusive and stubborn group in politics — the undecided voter. The candidates will all spend the day zooming across the state to give every possible speech and shake every available hand in an effort to woo those voters who haven't yet picked someone to stand behind.
But why haven't they picked anyone yet? The field of candidates was established months ago. There have been a dozen debates featuring every major candidate. You can't watch TV in Iowa without being assaulted by an unending barrage of ads. There is nothing that we will learn today that you shouldn't already know about the names on ballot. So what are voters waiting for?
The truth is that if you don't know at this point which candidate best represents your interests, then you probably haven't been paying attention to the race. That's perfectly understandable, given the overwhelming and often nauseating primary coverage, but even the least interested political wonk would have a hard time avoiding the news for six months. Also tuning in at the last minute and then casting votes on a whim isn't exactly what we're looking for out of democracy. And as this breakdown of the various kinds of undecideds from Slate points out, most of those people end up not voting anyway.
The more likely reason is that potential voters who say they are undecided are lying, possibly even to themselves. Either they don't want to share, they're too embarrassed to share, or they can't articulate their decision yet. No one wants to be painted into a corner by jumping on a bandwagon too early or look like a fool for backing the wrong horse. But secretly, most voters know right away what's important to them and who they want to vote for. They just can't or won't admit it. Most people think that saying you're undecided makes you seem thoughtful and intelligent ("I want to learn a bit more. I'm weighing all the factors.") when it reality it makes you seem wishy-washy and confused.
Thousands of precinct captains will stand up and make a pitch for their man or woman at the caucus tonight, but if you can be swayed that easily then you really haven't put that much thought into it at all.