Today’s the day

Several of the candidates will be calling into the Radio Iowa newsroom today to speak briefly.  Democrat Barack Obama was the first, at 7:23 a.m. — the candidate whose supporters have been chanting "fired up" with a response of "ready to go" at campaign rallies.  UPDATE:  Scroll to the bottom to see the latest from Bill Clinton’s call to KICD in Spencer.

"Tired enough?  Ready to snore?" I asked Obama in jest as he came on the line.  He laughed.

"You know, the truth is I feel pretty good except for my voice.  My voice called a time out," Obama said.  "We’re going to be doing a lot of handshaking.  My hands are feelin’ fine and I’ll just smile a lot and shake hands….We feel great.  We’ve done everything that we could.  Our organization is unbelievable.  They’ve been working around the clock.  We’ve identified a whole lot of supporters out in Iowa, it’s just a matter of getting them out to caucus.  I think that, you know, the people in Iowa have taken this process so seriously.  They’ve been so engaged.  They’ve given everybody a fair hearing.  They’ve really earned the place that they have in this democracy as the first-in-the-nation caucus and I am expecting that we’re going to see a really big turnout today.  They want to see the country pull together and solve problems like health care and they know that this is a chance to do it."

Obama intends to drink a concoction that includes lemon and ginger to help revive his vocal cords.  "It puts a pucker on my face, but the team insists that it’s going to do some good."

At 8:18 a.m., a campaign aide for Democrat John Edwards called into the newsroom, asking if it was possible to interview the senator earlier than our appointed time.  I said yes.

"Kay’s always ready," Edwards joked to the staffer and all three of us laughed.  "I’d say the same of you," I replied.

"Well, maybe.  Not as consistently," Edwards generously offered, then we began the brief check-up/temperature reading.  "We just finished a 36-hour ‘Marathon for the Middle Class’ — non-stop campaigning.  Last night we had our last event in Des Moines.  We had between 3000 and 4000 people which is a record crowd.  I don’t think anybody else had anything close in the last days so we have a lot of energy and momentum and the thing is moving in our direction.  We’re very encouraged….I stay on what I believe.  I believe if we don’t end corporate greed, strengthen the middle class and stand up for American jobs we’re not going to be able to give the promise of America to our children that was given to us by our parents and our grandparents and that’s what the battle’s about and we need a fighter, somebody who will go in to bring about the change that we need and that’s exactly what I’m going to do as president."

"What is your judgment of the mood of the electorate as we move into this election year?" I asked.

"I think that the voters are looking for change and they’re looking for who will be the most effective vehicle for that change and I think that they now believe that somebody who has a history of standing up to big corporate interests and somebody who has a history of winning battles against big corporate interests — and that’s me — that’s the person who can do the best job."

"Senator, the first time I interviewed you was during halftime of an NCAA basketball game back in 2002.  This has been a long road," I said to close.

"It has been a long road, but I’ll say this.  I know the people of Iowa.  I know the Caucus-goers in Iowa.  They know me and they trust me and they trust Elizabeth and I think they’re going to turn out for me tonight," Edwards said.

Just before 10 o’clock, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called in this morning from the road as he rolled along in his "Mitt Mobile" and talked to Radio Iowa via cell phone.

"Hello governor," I said.

"Hello Kay,"  he replied.

"How’s your day?’  I asked.

"Terrific.  It might be a little chilly though," Romney said.  "You know, I feel very positive today.  We’ve been talking to our folks around the state and they are very encouraged.  They’re concerned that it’s so cold that a lot of the seniors that had been planning on going to caucus may find it difficult but maybe by the end of the day it’ll warm up enough and of course people are giving rides to caucus locations, so a half an hour is going to be a critical point where people get to have their voice heard, frankly, around the country and around the world."

"What is your read of the electorate?" I asked.

"I think people are very concerned about Washington and they feel that Washington is just fundamentally broken  and they’re looking for somebody who has the experience and the values and the capability to finally get Washington to solve the problems that we have from illegal immigration to overspending and overtaxing to an energy policy that doesn’t get us independent yet, so we’ve got some work to do and they want to see change in Washington."

The Huckabee campaign has in the past 12 hours accused the Romney camp of sending mailers to Huckabee supporters, telling them the wrong location for caucus sites.  Romney said it wasn’t so.

"You know, the Huckabee folks have been awfully accusatory, I must admit it, for quite a while now," Romney said. "Actually, all the different people that we sent mailers to and all the people we’ve tried to contact and telling them where their polling places, the Republican Party has changed some of those places and so we’ve had to make an effort to go out and let people know where those changes have occured.  Those are our people as well as other folks.  We don’t frankly know who all the Huckabee people are.  We just try to notify people as quickly as we can about the new polling places."

Republican Fred Thompson called into the newsroom at about 10:30 a.m.  "I have just have had a wonderful couple of weeks and we’ve just takin’ it to the people just like we did in Tennessee and I feel some of the things I felt when we ran there in terms of folks really responding to us as we get to know ’em and talk about what we believe and who we are and why we’re doing this and I’m feeling good about it…You see these polls about pessimism and so forth…I don’t see people being pessimistic about things.  I think they’re concerned about the direction of the country.  They ought to be, I mean I am.  That’s the reason I’m running for president.  I think folks know that if we do the right thing, have the right kind of leadership that will be truthful to the American people in terms of the challenges we need to step up to, then we can do what we’ve done before throughout the history of this country and that is step up to what we need to do and get on with it and be united and strong like we’ve always been." 

The Clinton campaign had previously indicated Hillary Clinton would call into Radio Iowa today.  She did not, but her husband called one of our affiliates this afternoon and our affiliate just shared the audio with us.

"Well, we’re full of expectation and we’re workin’ like crazy," former President Bill Clinton told KICD newsman Mark Bruggom.  "I think enough people have told us that they’re supporting Hillary that she could win tonight if we could get most of ’em out there.  The real struggle now for all the campaigns that are in this is how to get their supporters to the Caucus and I think you know, up there where you are, it’s really important that everybody who’s listening to this interview who can go to  Caucus do it because you, if you can go, you can caucus for the Iowans who can’t be there, the ones who have to work at night and can’t get off work."

KICD is located in Spencer, a community of about 12,000, and Clinton paid homage to Iowans during his chat on the station.  "First of all, that they’re enormously well-informed and deeply-committed to this country.  They love their country.  They love their state and they love their communities.  There are so many beautiful, different, small communities that have been well-preserved, that have unique histories, a story to tell.  That’s probably the thing that I’ve loved the best," Clinton said.  "You know, I started off my career in Arkansas in politics in an area where more than half the people lived in communities of fewer than 2500 people, so I identify with rural Iowa and Hillary does, even though a lot of people don’t know it, most of New York State is rural, small town agriculture." 

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About O.Kay Henderson

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