Iowa may have economic problems, but this Saturday, at least, the party and catering business will be booming. The Hawkeye State has a population of about 2.8 million, but one gets the feeling that most of it is going to be wined and dined as every candidate (with the exception of Pat Robertson) from both major political parties will be searching for voters through countryside and cornfield, followed closely by the usual hordes of television and print reporters.

The National Association of Home Builders is hosting a noon debate among the Republican candidates in Des Moines. But Vice President George Bush, to the consternation of the other GOP hopefuls, has said no thank you to the debate. He says he has a previous commitment in another part of the state -- flipping a coin at a high school football game. That evening in Des Moines, all the Democratic candidates will gather -- along with about 9,000 other guests -- at the Veterans Auditorium for the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. And the campaign curtain-raising Iowa caucuses aren't until Feb. 8. As one wag observed: "You can't swing a dead cat in Iowa without hitting a presidential candidate." Or a reporter ...

Out and About Redskins quarterback Jay Schroeder opened his Falls Church restaurant in style Tuesday evening with a black-tie-optional celebration. The formally dressed 'Skins circling the heavily laden buffet table included linemen Russ Grimm, Raleigh McKenzie, Dave Butz and Charles Mann, tight end Don Warren, backs Keith Griffin and Vernon Dean and former place kicker Mark Moseley. It's a good thing Schroeder doesn't have to feed those guys free every day. His business would come to an abrupt end. A couple of other restaurateurs came to check out the competition at the Willston Centre shopping mall. Among them were former Redskin tight end Rick (Doc) Walker, who has an eatery of his own in Fairfax, Mo Sussman of Joe & Mo's and Paul Lucas of Le Jardin ...

Senate colleagues will crowd President Pro Tempore John Stennis' office tomorrow to celebrate the 40 years he has served in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body. When he retires next year, the Mississippi Democrat will have served 41 years and two months, second only in length of service to Arizona's Carl Hayden, who had 41 years and eight months. As one Stennis staffer said yesterday, "Most people alive in Mississippi can't remember when Stennis wasn't in the Senate" ...

Being down and out in Beverly Hills can be tough, even for a dog. This one had no collar and no teeth when he wandered onto Frank Sinatra's property. And Sinatra, for all the problems his bad temper has caused him, is usually a soft touch for creatures in need. He fed the mixed-breed pooch and arranged for a veterinarian to supply doggy dentures. A few days later, Sinatra and his wife Barbara picked him up at the vet's and decided to adopt him. You could make a movie or at least a TV series out of this ...

Vietnam veteran Jan Scruggs, the man who raised the money to have the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built, is soon to meet the man who will play him in the movie made from Scruggs' book, "To Heal a Nation." The made-for-television movie will tell the story of Scruggs' battles and frustrations in getting the memorial created. Eric Roberts, who starred in "Runaway Train," "Star 80" and "The Pope of Greenwich Village," will play Scruggs. He is in town this week, filming around various memorials. Scruggs and Roberts are to meet at the wrap shooting Saturday on the steps of the Capitol ...