Palin in Des Moines, Iowa

Below is a "live blog" of Palin's rally in Des Moines on Saturday, October 25, 2008.

Some familiar rally songs were played as the large crowd filed in, with the song "Hip to be Square" thrown in the mix. Dave Roederer, Iowa chairman of McCain's Iowa campaign, was first to the microphone and first to mention the name of "Joe the Plumber." 

Aaron Tippin, a country music artist, was introduced to the crowd. "God bless you for comin' out today," Tippin said, adding McCain/Palin are the team "to straighten some things out" in DC. Holding a guitar, Tippin began singing "You've Got To Stand for Something."  When he got to the chorus a third time, the crowd began clapping in time to the music.

"I wasn't one of those guys born with a silver spoon in my mouth," Tippin told the crowd, adding that's why he remembers what the "real people" are doing out in America.  "There Ain't Nothing Wrong With The Radio" is his second song.  

I got here before the singing began, in time to chat with the folks who are leaned up against the metal rail that divides the crowd from the media holding pen. I ran into a man and wife who "agree to disagree" as she's a McCain supporter and he caucused for Joe Biden back on January 3rd.  Nearby were two elderly women from Ames, Iowa — neighbors who caucused for Hillary Clinton in January.  They've already voted:  for Obama/Biden Genni Ricke explained why they are here:  "Curiosity.  To take her picture."

Back to the music, Tippin is a bit like Bob Dole, he talks about himself in the third person. "Aaron Tippin is the Fred Sanford of country music," Tippin said during the next break between songs. "I'm the only country singer with my own private junk yard."  It was a lead in to his song "Big Boy Toys."

A group of folks from Pleasant Hill, a Des Moines suburb, are standing almost directly in front of my laptop.  They caucused for Romney and Huckabee and McCain.  Sharon Huck is excited about Palin. "I love her," Huck says.  "I think that was a good choice (for McCain)."

Dennis Getz left his home in Cedar Rapids at 8:30 this morning to make it to this afternoon rally in Des Moines to see Palin because she's not getting a "fair shake" from the liberal media.  "I hear she's dynamite," Getz said. Although Getz caucused for Fred Thompson, he's on the "bandwagon" for the McCain/Palin ticket now.  "We don't really have a choice right now because otherwise it's going to be slavery, you know," Getz said.  "The guy who's running on the other side, he's not an American. He don't even think like we do." 

At 1:50 p.m., the crowd said the Pledge, then Roederer brought Kansas Senator Sam Brownback on as another warm-up act.  "Are you ready to rock the country?" Brownback said.  "…Don't let the media or the pollsters try to talk you out of a victory in Iowa on November 4th." 

A few local legislative candidates are given a chance to speak.  Kim Schmett, the GOP candidate in Iowa's third congressional district, speaks briefly.  The venue for this event is Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.  It's the same room where Oprah endorsed Obama in December, 2007.  The McCain campaign says there are about 8000 people here.  Roederer, the emcee, introduces Senator Chuck Grassley as a  "workhorse not a showhorse" and the crowd roars as he comes to the microphone. 

"The number one responsibility of the national government is national security and there is no doubt in my mind that a person like John McCain….is better qualified to be commander-in-chief than Obama," Grassley begins. 

At 2:08 p.m., the traveling press arrived in the media area, signaling the motorcade has arrived. 

"We do not want anybody to be president of the United States who is going to raise taxes on anyone," Grassley said, adding that he believes Obama will raise taxes to "a tremendously high level."

Roeerer, the Iowa chairman for McCain, repeated the history that Bush lost Iowa to Gore by two votes per precinct and Bush beat Kerry in 2004 by three votes per precinct.  "Folks there's 246 hours left between now and when the polls close.  We're down to 10 days, 6 hours, and it looks like 12 minutes when the polls close," Roederer said, adding that McCain's Iowa campaign has "made more voter contacts so far than in the year 2004…but we still have more to do and we need everybody."

Roederer leaves the stage.  There is no music.  The crowd starts chanting: "Sarah" — it's a two syllable word so you can hear the cadence in your head, right? Next, "We want Sarah" plus lots of whistling from a guy in the crowd behind the press area.  Now, a recording of Van Halen's "Right Here, Right Now" begins playing.  The crowd gathered on a riser on the back of the stage is already snapping picvtures — of the crowd.  "Turn this thing around" is the operative lyric.  The song fades at the end, and the crowd (sort of tepidly) starts chanting, "We want Sarah," as the DJ cues up "Life Is A Highway" for the sound system.  Next song, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," a Stevie Wonder classic that is played often at Obama rallies.

At exactly 2:30 p.m., the announcer with the "Main Event" type voice announces to the crowd:  "And now, Willow and Piper Palin, the next vice president of the United States Sarah Palin."  The crowd roars.  Grassley gets to introduce her, then tell the crowd.  "Our own Iowa Chops Hockey team has a jersey they want to preset to her," Grassley says, as the president and the owner of the team make the formal presentation. 

"Thank you so much," Palin says to start.  "Of course to Aaron Tippin, we thank him for his beautiful music….Iowa Chops, thank you for the jersey.  It is so good to be in the home of the Iowa Chops…and the Hawkeye State.  Des Moines, you are so welcoming….you are patriotic and I know we have so many patriots in this great crowd."  Palin asks the vets in the crowd to raise their hands.  "Thank you so much…for your service and your sacrifice."

Palin introduces her children to the crowd.  "Hi, Iowa," Piper says. I cannot hear what she's saying next, as her mic isn't piped into the sound system.  "So glad to be home here at the Iowa Chops headquarters," Palin says again (the Chops play next door at the Wells Fargo Arena).

"We're the underdogs in this race," Palin says, continuing with the sentence.  "Iowa are you ready to help us carry this state to victory?….Are you ready to send us to Washington, D.C. to shake things up?…You unerstand the stakes in this election…This is all about the future of our country…and our country is facing tough economic times and now more than ever we need someone tough….we need someone with a bold and real and fair plan….We need John McCain."

"Small businesses…we're going to let you keep more of what you earn…that's how jobs are created.  That's how our economy gets rollin'…John McCain & I will lower your income tax…We will keep American businesses here in America, yes."

"…When it comes to taxes, you're going to have such a clear choice….our opponent is not being candidate with you about his tax plans and it is not mean-spirited…to call someone out on their record….so we're going to do it….He is hiding his real agenda of redistributing your hard-earned money."

Wendy Riemann of the McCain campaign in Iowa just tappedd me on the shoulder.  "10,000.  The fire marshal just shut us down," she said of the crowd size.  "There are still more outside, waiting to get in."

Back to Palin's speech. "Joe the Plumber said to him, 'It sounded like socialism' and now's not the time to experiment with that," Palin said.  "Joe wanted more than a handshake and a campaign button…and he spoke for a lot of Americans with that question. …(Obama's campaign has) been attacking good old Joe the Plumber,"

Palin notes a "Joe the Farmer" sign in the crowd.  A high-pitched squeal is followed by a loud roar from the crowd. 

"We're all in this together, so on November 4th we're not going to support Barack the wealth-spreader's plan," Palin said.  "…It will stifle the entrepreneurial spirit that make American the greatest country on earth….Our opponent's plan is just more big government….What John and I want to do is spread opportunity so that people like you & Joe the Plumber can create new wealth."

Next up, Palin discusses the spectre of Democrats controlling the legislative and executive branches of government. "The monopoly of power is something that we need to be discussing in these last days of the campaign," Palin says.  "…The lessons we have taught our kids would be eroded…Government kind of moving into the role as the other half of our family, making decisions for us.  They do this in other countries where people are not free."

Palin next talks about her record as mayor and governor "up there in Alaska."  

Palin poses some questions to the crowd: "So Iowa, I ask you: will you hire us?  Will you send us to Washington?" Palin says.  The crowd cheers in the affirmative.  "Well, it's a deal because we want the job." 

Palin returns to a discussion of an issue:  energy policy.  Palin prompts the crowd:  "Now is when you chant: 'Drill baby, drill!"  AFter a few seconds, the crowd gets in sinc.

"John has asked me to lead on another mission that is especially close to my heart….children that have special needs," Palin says.  "John and I have a vision…where every life counts."  Long burst of applause.  "A vision of America where every child is cherished," Palin continues. 

"So Iowa, with each passing day in this campaign I think American voters are realizing the choices are getting very clear.  You're getting a very clear look at what you have to choose from on Election Day.  It is the choice between a politician who puts his faith in government and a leader, John McCain, who puts his faith in you," Palin says.  The crowd cheers.  She refers to ACORN as "an organization that is committing voter fraud" and she calls Obama "a politician who won't disavow" ACORN.  The crowd boos.

"Iowa we need a leader, someone who can serve as president on day one.  We need a leader with experience and good judgment and truthfulness…(McCain) knows how to win a war and as the mother of one fo the troops in Iraq today, he's exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief."  Long burst of applause from the crowd.

"So Iowa, November 4th is coming so soon.  It's going to be a close race.  We know it's going to come down to the wire and it's going to come down to what we believe in and what John McCain and I believe in is what Ronald Reagan believed in.  We believe in the forward movement of freedom, not in the constant expansion of government and believe that the virtues of freedom are worth fighting for and we believe that the best of America is not all assembled there in Washington, D.C.  It is here….in the courage of everyday, hard-working Americans…This is where the goodness of America is…John and I believe in the promise of this country….And we believe that America isn't the problem, America is the solution."

"We may not be a perfect nation.  We learn from our mistakes, though, and collectively we represent some pretty perfect ideals, though…and I thank God that we have a man…worthy to lead it, someone who inspires us with heroic and trustworthy deed and not just words."  The crowd cheers.

Palin winds down, "asking" for the votes of Iowans.  "I thank you and I say God Bless Iowa and God Bless America.  Thank you."

The end of peech.  Palin never mentioned Obama by name never said the name "Obama" but said "Barack" once.  She said "spread the wealth" and "Joe the Plumber" several times.

Polk County Democrats were out on the street outside, staging a clothing drive and planning to donate the clothes to the local DAV in Palin's name.  Palin, during her speech earlier today in Sioux City, told the crowd she wore her "own jacket."

UPDATE:  I'm back at the office now, editing tape and I notice that every time the crowd cheers one of her lines, Palin says, "Yes," sort of like the basketball player who says, "Yes," each time they make a basket. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

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