Prelude to the Iowa Democratic Party’s JJ Dinner

Five of the six candidates who are to speak this evening in Des Moines at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner have planned events in the late afternoon to rally supporters. (The exception: Hillary Clinton.)  Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, greeted a crowd of her husband’s supporters shortly after four o’clock — and shortly after they’d been entertained by musician John Legend.

"He’s decent.  He’s honest and he tells the truth," M. Obama told the crowd (she was describing her husband, not John Legend, although he may indeed share those attributes) moments before introducing her husband who took so long making his way to the stage that his wife, who still had the microphone, lead the crowd in chanting "OH-BAHM-UH!" as Aretha Franklin’s "Freedom" was pumped over the loud speakers.. 

"How’s it going Iowa?" Obama yelled to the jubilant crowd.  "Aaaaaaaaaauh," he said over their cheers.  "Are ya fired up?  Are ya ready to go?"  (That is the Obama camp’s main chant.)  "Aaaaaaaauh, look at this.  I am excited. (Obama laughs; crowd cheers)  I’m excited.  First of all, I’m excited because I haven’t seen my wife in a couple of days.  (Crowd laughs.)  Seeing Michelle always gets me excited…."

"Now, I’ve been instructed I can’t give a long speech because I’ve got to save my delicate voice for the J.J. Dinner, plus I don’t want to use up all my good lines," Obama advised the afternoon crowd.

This is how Obama closed his speech (do you hear shades of Howard Dean? I can advise there was no scream from Obama, but the crowd cheered throughout):  "…It’s with your power, it’s with your voices that we’re going to be able to make a difference.  We’re going to make a difference here in Iowa and then we’re going to make a difference in New Hampshire and then we’re going to make a difference in Nevada and then we’re going to make a difference in South Carolina and then we’re going to make a difference all across the country because one voice can change a room and if it can change a room, it can change a city and if it can change a city, it can change a state and if it can change a state, it can change a nation.  If it can change a nation, it can change a world.  Your voice can change the world.  Your voice can change health care.  Your voice can change education.  Your voice can change America.  So, I gotta ask ya again:  Are you fired up?"

"Fired up," the crowd replied in unison.

"Are you ready to go?" Obama asked.

"Ready to go," the crowd responded.

After a few more chants back and forth, Obama closed with this:  "Let’s go change the world."

My next stop was at Bill Richardson’s pre-JJ event.  This was held in the Quality Inn a block away from the Veteran’s Auditorium venue that will serve as the home of tonight’s JJ festivities.  Richardson’s celebs were Al and Bobby Unser — the racing legends who have –between the two of them — nine Indy 500 victories.

Richardson desscribes the Unsers as one of New Mexico’s most prominent families.  "I do want to assure you that neither one of the Unsers will be advising me on fuel efficiency standards," Richardson joked with the crowd when he had a turn behind the mic.  Richardson advised that the two men would be traveling the state of Iowa on his behalf, and he would be "putting them in a hybrid" for the drive.

As I sit in the press file typing this blog post, I am hearing the Obama and Clinton people chanting as they enter Vet’s Auditorium.  As people enter the hall, they must run a gauntlet of signs and chanting young supportes for each of the candidates.  Dixie-Land-style music is wafting out of the Biden area across the street.  The Obama folks walked en mass from the Obama rally to the hall, as did the Edwards folks. (Edwards also has a huge screen set up on a corner of the property outside, showing pictures and playing audio of the candidate.)

John Edwards and his supporters rallied in the Polk County Convention Complex a couple of blocks south of Vet’s Auditorium at 5:30 p.m.  Edwards told the crowd he’d "give ’em hell" and he’s campaigning with his "heart and soul."

"…I have been fighting this fight my entire life," Edwards told the crowd, his voice cracking at timesduring his speech as his volume rose to a yell.  "I  have walked into courtrooms for two decades by myself with an army of corporate lawyers arrayed on the other side.  I didn’t just walk into that courtroom again and again and again for children and families.  I walked in that courtroom and I beat them and I beat them and I beat them and I beat them and I will beat them as president of the United States of America."

Clinton, again, did not have a pre-party for her supporters.  Her celebrity draw is on the dining floor right now.  It’s Quincy Jones.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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