Admit it: by now you are personally offended by all those inane alleged predictions about our immediate future that are inflicted upon us at this time of the year. You know the kind: "UFO Over Chillicothe, Ohio, to Hijack Shirley Maclaine for Romantic Rendezvous With Elvis"; "Horned Toad Invasion to Disrupt Summer Olympics in Seoul." But if you really need to know what is going to happen, in the political year of 1988, here are some predictions you can truly bank on. They are things that will be said in Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb. 9, the day after the state party caucuses:
By the winning candidate's manager: "Iowa is truly the United States. Iowa is practical, untrendy, middle-of-the-road, with one Democratic senator and one Republican, a Republican governor and a Democratic lieutenant governor. By coming here and winning, our guy proves he can win anywhere."
By the spokesman for the candidate who led in all the polls only to trail badly in the actual caucus results: "The race for the nomination, as we have said repeatedly, is a marathon. It's a test of stamina, staying power and personal stability. Iowa was only a 20-yard dash. The name of the game is delegates; the reality is that the 213 area code in Southern California has five times as many convention delegates as Iowa. As I told you before, we are in this thing for the long haul and this was only the first exhibition game of the grapefruit league."
(Note: Spokespersons for losing candidates in both parties share a fondness for sports metaphors in explaining their defeats.)
By the Famous Bicoastal Columnist/Commentator after his predicted Iowa winners finish out of the money in the caucuses: "Iowa is not to be mistaken for the nation. After all, this place still has more farms than Hispanics. Everybody here has a dog named Spot and seems to get along with his mother. What can be said in defense of a state without even a mediocre Cajun restaurant where people actually go to Rotary Club luncheons and where voters think a concierge is a professional hockey player? The place is too wholesome -- more church suppers than shrinks, and where can you get the shuttle to? Omaha? Convention delegates should only be chosen from cities with a good deli."
By the syndicated pundit who luckily and accurately predicted in print the winners of the Iowa caucuses: "Here in Iowa, people take both their patriotism and their politics seriously. Iowans met the men who would be president face to face and made their hard judgments. These Iowans are not easily fooled by appearances. Men and women who live so close to the soil learn early how to judge a January sky and a would-be leader. All the fancy media consultants in New York and Los Angeles are useless to a candidate when he comes under the scrutiny of these Americans they call Hawkeyes in a Cedar Rapids living room. Iowans, among the lost literate of all Americans, have made their decision. Their judgment will reverberate through this Nation and be heard in Moscow and London and wherever people care about who will lead the Free World. The judgment from Iowa is not to be taken lightly, because, let me assure you, it was not lightly made. . . . " (There will be more; this particular prediction is advisedly abridged).
By spokespersons, both Democratic and Republican, for the third-place finishers in the caucuses: "Our camp is elated. The boss' showing here exceeded all our internal projections. In view of the late start we got in Iowa and the responsibilities of his office, which the boss insisted on conscientiously fulfilling, we believe the conclusion is inescapable: Here in Iowa, our candidate did Better than Expected."
Finally, one ironclad, gold-plated prediction for later in the year: next July, when the Democrats hold their convention in Atlanta. After Frank Sinatra personally requests permission from party chairman Paul Kirk to sing the national anthem at the opening session with Sammy Davis Jr., London bookmakers will install the Democratic ticket as prohibitive favorites to win the general election. (London bookmakers put great stock in Sinatra's record of correctly choosing who will be appointing the next IRS commissioner.)