I was trying to find that famous line from Bill Bryson when he writes about his home town, Des Moines, Iowa.

This was it: "I come from Des Moines," his novel, The Lost Continent, opens. "Somebody had to."

There is a sign outside the town, he jokes, that reads: "Welcome to Des Moines. This Is What Death Is Like".

I'm writing this at 2am GMT and the Associated Press has just called the Iowa caucus for Donald Trump - a record 30-point margin.

Before being buoyed by this predictable but awful electoral victory, Trump seemed to feel that Iowa really is what death is like. Before the voting opened for the first test in the US election nomination race, he posted a video complaining about the sub zero temperatures - "you guys have the worst weather" - in the state.

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If he hadn't been otherwise occupied with his fraud trial in New York he might have arrived earlier to less inclement climes.

Mr Bryson has a caustic tongue, not least when describing the place of his birth, but there is a humour to it and an undercurrent of fondness that lets him off the hook.

Trump, though, has none such. His signature nastiness has already begun and cannot be leashed. Trump, aged 77, is going after Joe Biden's age, posting pictures of the 81-year-old on social media looking frail with a pop at the "White House senior living" centre.

He has made fun of disabilities, been appalling on race, misogynistic about women, and on and on.

As a UK election looks ever more likely to be towards the end of the year - though rule nothing out - and close to a US election, expect the news cycle for the next 10 months to be filled with nastiness.

The Conservatives here have set the tone. Their Better Call Saul-themed attack advert against Keir Starmer, released on Wednesday, is a grim bit of kit.

The Labour leader was a criminal defence barrister who - gasp - defended criminals. This fact is going to be a drum banged by the Tories until Starmer's inevitable takeover of Downing Street.

In this instance, Starmer advised the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, soon to be banned by Sunak, during his legal career.

"Are you a terrorist in need of legal advice? Better call Keir," the Tory attack advert on Twitter/X reads.

"When Rishi Sunak sees a group chanting jihad on our streets, he bans them. Keir Starmer invoices them." I mean, it's a nice line but it's also nonsense.

The Tories are supposed to be the party of law and order but don't really seem to appreciate how the legal system functions. Right to a fair trial anyone?

But there are themes here. The dreaded Rwanda plan suggests a Conservative government with a loose relationship to the law. Rwanda not a safe country? Sod it, we'll just pass legislation declaring that it is.

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Concerned about the European Court of Human Rights? Let's just keeping referring to it as a "foreign court" and hope those we're targeting hear the dog whistle. But lads, it's not a foreign court, it's an international court. There's quite a stark difference.

"Better call Keir" - it's that perfect, three-word catchy slogan. Like "stop the boats". Stop the boats is a clever slogan because it unites all sides. Who doesn't want to stop the boats? If you are a bleeding heart leftie liberal you want to stop the boats because you crave the establishment of legal routes into the country.

If you are a xenophobic, far right nut you want to stop the boats because you don't want those filthy foreigners coming here and taking our jobs/women/university places.

If you are somewhere in the middle you still want to stop the boats to see an end to people drowning in the freezing waters of the English Channel.

"Take back control" was another. Trump's was "Take back America" and "fight like hell". Was Penny Mourdant echoing him when she exhorted Britons to "stand up and fight". To the barricades, Britain!

That the right manipulates voters' fears in order to persuade them to support madnesses - like Brexit, like the Rwanda policy - is nothing new. But we are about to be saturated in it.

Keir Starmer, in his recent new year speech, made an appeal to moderation. He promised voters that he would establish a new kind of politics, a politics that treads lightly through people's lives. No more populism, no more having to find the energy to be furious at the monster of the week.

His speech was paraphrased as saying was that once the grown ups are back in charge, we will all be able to relax a little, engage less, let the adults make the big decisions.

I understood it slightly differently. We must still engage as intimately with politics but do so in an intellectual manner, not an emotional manner. That's a big ask. Visceral reactions to outrageous ideas are easy because they require less thought.

There has become a base level of cruelty embedded in politics. Sir Keir Starmer promises us hope. Perhaps hope we'll have. Before then, things are only going to become worse before they become better.

Can one side change the narrative if the other side persists in meanness? It's a task. Will voters be lured by decency or do they want excitement too? Keir Starmer is no Tony Blair, people complain of a lack of mood akin to the lively, excitable scenes of the 1997 Labour landslide.

Excitement is too much to ask, both from Starmer and the electorate. Relief is about the best we can muster.

The late Roy Jenkins famously said that, in opposition, Blair was like "a man carrying a priceless Ming vase across a highly polished floor". Keir Starmer is carrying a priceless vase too, but the floor is not his only problem. He also has to dodge the brickbats twanging from the slingshots of opponents with nothing left to lose, not even their dignity.

Among voters, cynicism about politics and politicians runs deep. Fears over economic uncertainty are high. Exhaustion from ... well, everything, is in the bones.

Starmer can talk about re-establishing hope but it's not clear how he's going to do it. He's hamstrung from making expensive policy promises and he has already trailed the fact that not everyone will be able to have what they want. "That's democracy," he said.

Hope seems a bold pledge. Compassion seems a naïve wish. We must gird ourselves for thoroughly depressing electoral campaigns and hope for the best, which is that we aren't about to see even worse than we've ever seen before.