Primary campaign winds down

I’ve talked to Chet Culver, Mike Blouin and Ed Fallon today — in that order. (That’s also the order in which the candidates "finished" in the Register’s Iowa Poll results which were published today.)

Culver appeared at a UAW hall near the Firestone plant at 1:30 this afternoon.  The place sort of smelled like a bowling alley, had a shuffle board pattern in the tile on the floor and about 60 people showed up.  Senator Dick Dearden introduced the dignitaries to the crowd of on-lookers, referring to Patty Judge as "Senator" and Chet Culver as "the next governor of the United States!"  Afterwards, Tom Beaumont from the Register asked Culver about that job.

"That’s a new position," Culver replied, laughing.  When jokingly pressed for details about the duties of the job, he said "You’ll have to talk to Dick about that" 

Culver had given the standard stump speech after the Dearden introduction and because of the set-up Culver was standing on a platform about 10 inches off the floor.  I was standing in front of him, holding my minidisc recorder.

"I couldn’t be more excited about the future of this state," Culver began, then looked down at me.  "Do you want me to hold that for you?"

"Sure," I replied, handing him the device, which readily fit in his hand.  The crowd broke out in laughter.

"Always try to help the press," Culver told the assembled crew, who laughed even louder.  "I could hit the off button, too."

Blouin is canvassing the state in a bus.  A pretty swank bus judging by the description of it Blouin shared when I talked with him by phone just before five o’clock.

"This is an amazing bus.  Tom Bedell has loaned it to us, actually it’ll be an in-kind contribution and it allows us to bring all of our equipment along.  We’ve Internet service on it.  We’ve got phones and our printers and we can spread out and we can eat on it without having to schedule those kinds of things.  There’s a restroom on it so we don’t even have to make the rest stops along the way."

Blouin called into the Radio Iowa newsroom by phone and we talked about his last-minute message to voters, and I asked him one of the questions I asked Culver:  Since the last statewide "election" for Iowa Democrats was the 2004 Caucuses, what did that campaign teach you?

Culver, who has Patrick Dillon — a former John Edwards aide — as his campaign manager, had said when I asked him that question earlier that the Caucuses proved that whichever candidate had the best ground game would win.  Blouin, who has former Howard Dean staffer Matt Paul as his campaign manager, said it proved a candidate can make up a lot of ground in a hurry.  Fallon, who I chatted with by phone at about 7:45 p.m., at first said he was stumped by the question.  Then, after thinking about it a bit and having me ask him the question again, Fallon said the 2004 Caucuses showed polls often don’t show the true sentiment of the electorate.

The Register’s Iowa Poll used to have a margin of error of three percent.  Now it’s four percent, because the sample size (number of people) is smaller.  Compounding that is the advent of the cell phone and many Iowans are dumping their land lines and using a cell phone exclusively.  Think it’s just something the young kids are doing?  The first in Des Moines who I knew to dump their land line was not a 20-something, but a 50-something.

Enough about polls.  Back to the closing campaign activity.  I remember introducing Ed Fallon at an Iowa Association of Business and Industry forum in March and mentioning that he is a championship accordian player, having won the State Fair accordian competition before.  Ben Zachrich, Fallon’s campaign manager at the time (he resigned recently) lambasted me afterwards for mentioning it.  "He’s a serious candidate running for governor, not auditioning for Juliard" was the basic sentiment Ben shared.

Now that Zachrich is gone, perhaps, the accordian and the guitar have become staples of the closing days of the Fallon primary campaign.  Fallon told me that just today he has played the guitar and the accordian at several stops.  "People find it refreshing," Fallon said.  "I’m not pretentious.  I’m not afraid to be who I am."

I am going into the Radio Iowa production studio now to cut a final wrap (broadcast lingo as my voice is "wrapped" around sound bites in the package you hear on the air).  I’ll share thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates tomorow, as well as some of the highlights of a project reviewing the candidate websites. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.