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Talking Points -- When it comes to caucuses don't throw a Mitt but do get involved

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The November 2008 presidential elections are more than nine months away and many of you are already sick to death of the race. How the Hillary are we going to get through this without pitching a complete Mitt fit? Mac is back? How 'bout a Mac and Coke - and make it a double! Obama, please help me!

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At least Minnesotans can take some solace in the fact that the state's not a big player in the primary/caucus season, despite having its caucus in this election cycle moved up about a month, to Feb. 5.

Think of those poor folks in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two lead states. The candidates were so pervasive this fall that homeowners practically had to usher John Edwards out the back door after a visit so he wouldn't run into Hillary coming in the front.

Minnesota won't have to deal with that kind of 24-hour, 7-days-a-week invasion of their privacy so they should have some stomach left for election-year politics even as the run up to Super Duper Tuesday reaches a fever pitch.

And they should take advantage of living in a relatively ignored state and get involved.

Attending a party caucus can be a nice civics refresher course for those of us who mostly slept through those lessons in our youth. It's not likely you'll be inspired to read Jefferson's complete works, but at least you'll have some idea how all those crazy people wearing hats and waving placards end up at the party conventions next summer.

Unlike a primary or general election, in which voters cast ballots and split, caucuses are meetings; you'd have to invest an hour or two. Anyone can attend, but you must be of voting age by the Nov. 4, 2008 election and be likely to support the candidates and positions of whichever party caucus you attend.

Once the event begins, the caucus-goer will be involved in the election of delegates to state party conventions - watch out, you might even be one. Issues will be discussed, and a particular issue or position near and dear to you could end up being included in the party platform. Straw ballots for president also are a big part of the caucus process.

It's kind of like learning a sport you don't completely understand, like soccer. Any casual observer knows that the team with the most goals at the end of the game wins. But once you realize there's more to it than just kicking a ball around until somebody puts one in the back of the net, suddenly there's newfound interest. With interest comes participation, and, at its core, that's what democracy is all about.

So if you'd like to avoid another night of watching toothy, waving candidates traipse across stages on your TV screens, turn off your set, go to a party caucus and dig into the process. You'll learn that most of those candidates we've come to know so well the last several months are more than a bunch of political Huckabees ... ah, I mean hucksters.

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