01/02/2012 12:27 pm ET Updated Jan 02, 2012

Iowa Caucus Yard Signs: The Dog That Isn't Barking

DES MOINES -- According to the GOP's publicly available election schedule, there is a presidential caucus here on Tuesday. You wouldn't know it from looking around.

In 2008, the state of Iowa was carpet bombed with yard signs celebrating one candidate or another, as both parties played out contests between contenders with passionate grassroots support. That backing bloomed into yard signs, said Jennie Balcom, on "every other yard."

Balcom and her husband, Mark Glowacki, both 54, say they haven't seen such a dearth of yard signs in years. On the four-mile ride to the Drake Diner Monday morning, they counted a total of three, all for Ron Paul. In other parts of the state, they say, they've gone long stretches without seeing a single sign.

Political observers warn that counting yard signs is generally a bad way to predict who will win a contest. But an overall absence of signs, however, may be telling. Glowacki and Balcom are Democrats, but Republicans have noticed the absence, too.

"It's weird," says Tri Nguyen, a 45-year-old cab driver who's leaning toward backing Ron Paul and will be caucusing tomorrow night. There's no sign in his yard, he says, though in 2008 he had one up celebrating John McCain. He's not passionate about any of the candidates, he says, and is mostly supporting Paul because his wife is.

"I'm still thinking about who I'm going to go for," he says, explaining the absence of a placard in his yard. The most recent Des Moines Register Iowa poll found that 41 percent of likely voters were still undecided.

But Nguyen says that, upon reflection, there is a striking lack of propaganda around town. "It's usually a lot, but not this time. There's not that much this year."

Gowacki says that his block on the west side of Des Moines is highly politically active and largely Republican, but there isn't a single sign.

"The yard sign is a great way to gauge how strong support is," says Glowacki. "If I believe in you, I'm going to say it."