HRC, Richardson, Biden at Polk County Dems

Polk County Democrats are holding some sort of BBQ this evening on the Iowa State Fairgrounds and three of the presidential candidates intend to speak to the throng.  Each of the three has young boosters positioned outside this Morton Building (if you’re a farm kid, you know what that is; the "official" name of the thing is Wanut Center) and they’re chanting.  The Edwards kids were shouting: "We love Elizabeth.  We love John.  We want to see them on the White House lawn."

Polk County activist Betty Brim-Hunter told the crowd:  "Caucuses are very expensive and this is the way we raise money."  This being the auction of items they’re hoping will raise money, as well as the ticket price for the meal.

Next, Polk County Chairman Tom Henderson (no relation) spoke.  He got the biggest swell of applause from the crowd when he mentioned the recent Gallup Poll which showed Bush’s job approval rating at 29 percent.  No mention of the popularity of congress (or lack thereof).

Delaware Senator Joe Biden was the first in the room, and he chatted with a group of reporters, saying he intends to stay in the race ’til the end.  This in answer to a question about Brownback’s withdrawal and whether there might be others not doing so well in fundraising or in the polls (like himself) who might be pondering such a move.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was second in the room.  He did a live shot at the end of a local TV newscast, then went outside to answer a few questions from reporters.  Richardson vows to "respect Iowans" and stay away on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days, but told reporters he intends to spend a good deal of time here in advance of the Caucuses, whenever they are.  He also wishes he knew when they would be.

Then, Biden took the stage, beginning with a thank you as he said Iowans give candidates who don’t have the big chunks of dough to be competitive, otherwise he said the nomination would be determined by who had the most cash. Biden told the crowd he was given 10 minutes to speak.  He went 17 minutes. After his address, former Senator Jim Riordan auctioned off a pair of Senate cuff links donated by Biden.  I cannot hear how much they brought, but it seemed like $20.  The next item sold for $30.  Cuff links always remind me of Pat Buchanan, as he wore such nice ones while campaigning in Iowa.

Just (nearly) ran into former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack as she was walking in the back of the room near the press riser carrying a pile of paper plates & related debris.  "Just busing the tables.  We were getting tired of the flies," she told me with a smile.  Her husband is sitting in the middle of the room, at this time leaning across a table to speak with the people sitting to his south. 

Riordan just told the crowd Clinton is running late.  They’re behind schedule anyway.  It is 7:07 — Richardson was supposed to speak at 6:30 but he hasn’t been given the stage yet.  Clinton was supposed to speak at 7.  Oh, well.

Richardson spoke at about 7:15, but my computer battery died so no typewritten notes.  He told the crowd the American Dream is winning the war in Iraq.  He spoke for about 13 minutes.

Next up, Jackie Dodd — the wife of Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd.  She talked about the challenge of flying coach with two young children.  "Nothing is scarier than 11 hours getting to Iowa with little kids," she said.  The crowd laughed at a few of her jokes.  She talked about her husband’s work in congress. Dodd donated a Red Sox jersey (which he autographed — is he a member of the team?) for the auction.

Barack Obama’s brother-in-law spoke next.  At the end, he auctioned off lunch with Michelle Obama, his sister.  It went for $400. 

Press corps has been advised Clinton is to be landing at the airport in the neighborhood of 8 o’clock.  That would, of couse, be an hour after she was scheduled to be speaking at this event.  So, they invited Congressman Leonard Boswell up to auction a few things.  He is quite a talented auctioneer and got the buyers in the crowd to part with more than $20 per item. 

Senator Tom Harkin is now at the lectern, talking.  He advised the crowd that the reason Obama didn’t make it tonight is "because he’s still reeling from the trauma of finding out he’s related to Dick Cheney."

Harkin then continued, quoting someone else as having said, "Dick Cheney has more blacks and gays in his family than the entire Republican Party."

The crowd is thinning out.  The time:  8:40 p.m.  No Clinton yet.

Ah, 8:45 p.m.  Clinton is in the house.  The crowd has thinned to about half its original size.

"Are you ready for our last speaker?" Tom Henderson (again, no relation) asks the crowd at 8:50.  A smattering of applause and cheers.  He continues, and then has to tell the crowd to shush.

Someone started playing music while Henderson is still reading the introduction.  "Thank you," he says.

"I know that you had a wonderful evening already," HRC begins.  Polk County Democrats are the "epicenter" of Iowa politics and "therefore the epicenter of the world."  There is applause.

Now, she’s recognizing people in the crowd.  First, Harkin.  "You’re going to send him back by acclimation," she says.  Next up Congressman Boswell, then Tom & Christie Vilsack.

"It’s great being back at the State Fair.  You know, when I was here in August it was a little hotter…(now she’s talking about the butter cow — a Wonder Bar, flipping pork chops)…And so I ate my way from one end of the fair to the other……I want to ask you something:  Are you ready for change?"  She is now into her stump speech. 

She is the only candidate tonight who has taken the microphone in hand and roamed the stage.  "The era of cowboy diplomacy is over," she says.  The crowd applauds.  "…I have a very simple observation.  You cannot be a leader if no one is following."  Smattering of laughter.

"As I travel around Iowa I meet so many people who are working as hard as they can…but their incomes aren’t going up…the average American family has lost $1000 in income," she said.  Now, into her "green collar job" initiative.  "Take the tax subsidies away from the oil companies" and turn that into grants to build the renewable energy industry.

Now, into education. 

"We are finally going to do what is way overdue and that is quality, affordable health care," Clinton says and gets perhaps her biggest applause of the night.  As she makes her way through this speech, there are more bursts of applause for her than for the other two.

Now, she is attacking Bush Administration’s response to Katrina. HRC accuses the Bush/Cheney administration of "Incomeptance, indifference, insensitivity."

"And finally," she says, as a seque into her discussion of children’s issues.  Bush veto of SCHIP waas "shocking" according to Clinton. 

"So that’s what I’m going to be doing as your president if you give me the chance," HRC continues.  Now the discussion of being the first woman POTUS.  "…But I can’t get there without your help.  It starts right here in Iowa and I’m going to do everything I can…between now and the Caucus whenever it is.  I’ll be there and I hope you will be, too," she says.  The audience laughed.

Now, she’s recounting the elderly women on the trail who were born before women had the right to vote…and the "little girls" who are told they "can be anything they want to be…that’s what America is about.  We are a nation that has new beginnings….We want to believe that about our country.  We want to start acting like Americans again….Thank you and God bless you."

Speech over.  It lasted nearly 17 minutes.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. Biden’s cuffs went for $320. and the speech lasted closer to 10 minutes, not 17. Did the batteries in your hearing aid and stop watch go out too?

  2. Mitch Henry says

    Former Iowa Farmer’s Union President and Clinton Administration appointee Gary Lamb today asked why the Clinton campaign is talking with Washington lobbyists about rural issues instead of listening to Iowa farmers. Lamb issued the statement in response to reports that the Clinton campaign is hosting a “Rural Americans for Hillary” event at a lobbying firm in Washington, DC.
    “When it comes to the issues facing rural America, it seems like Senator Clinton is listening to Washington lobbyists instead of spending time in Iowa with folks who have been farming for decades,” Lamb said. “I know Senator Clinton said that she believes Washington lobbyists represent real Americans, I just can’t believe that she thinks they know how to farm.”

  3. Did you ask Joe Biden why he raises his voice so much, when making a point? If president, will he be yelling at us?