Des Moines (CNN) – Both campaign essential and political cliché, the diner is again rising to prominence in the last days before the Iowa caucuses. Candidates have been crawling (almost literally, due to space concerns) all over the roadside fixtures.
But it is in the absence of candidates that Iowa voters may give you the most sincere reviews of both food and politics.
"I got the ham," said Chris Aldinger. "Iowa ham." Aldinger ate the "Shebang," an egg and ham special, at Des Moines' Drake Diner, a 50s-style restaurant next to the university of the same name.
In the diners of Iowa, pork is essential. Bacon, ham, sausage, tenderloin, barbecue, ribs and sandwiches are just the basics.
"I think there’s one candidate I like, and that's Ron Paul," Aldinger offered. "But I don’t know why I don’t have the...fortitude to get my skinny over there and do it."
A few booths over, Republican friends Barb and Virginia, who did not give their last names, discovered they both wanted vegetarian breakfasts and the same candidate: Mitt Romney.
"We need someone who has success in restoring businesses and bringing them back to a viable state," said Barb. She had the Veggie Bene, a version of Eggs Benedict, while Virginia had a vegetarian omelet.
In the back of Drake's sat a woman closely connected to the caucus campaign. Sarah Enos is the wife of Wes Enos, the former Iowa political director for Michele Bachmann. He left the campaign late last week.
At the diner his wife, Sarah, ordered the Eggs Benedict but said she's undecided on the political menu. "I’m kind of up in the air, I have been all season," Enos said. She is looking at Bachmann, Mitt Romney. "And maaayyyybe Ron Paul."
The issue for Enos? Figuring out who represents her values, who can beat President Obama and, if that is not the same person, which is more important - values or electability.
"That’s a tough one," she responded. "Do you sacrifice your ideals just for someone that's perceived at the moment to beat Obama or will someone catch on if someone shows the support?"
The Drake Diner's menu specialties: Homemade milkshakes, Waffle Dogs, Cap’n Crunch French Toast and the Whole Hog Omelet, which has three types of pork and Monterey Jack cheese.
Latest campaign diner stops: Michele Bachmann drew an overflow crowd to Paula’s Cafe in West Des Moines Monday. Sunday, Mitt Romney brought such a crowd of reporters, and some caucus-goers, to the Family Table restaurant in Atlantic, Iowa, business was virtually shut down. The restaurant manager told CNN that the pro-business candidate, ironically, cost them a good amount of money in lost sales.
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