Harkin, Begala @ the Fry

Senator Tom Harkin and political consultant/TV pundit Paul Begala spoke with reporters shortly before the program began at the 34th annual Harkin Steak Fry on this soggy Sunday afternoon.

Begala’s message to Iowa Democrats? Begala boiled his initial answer down to bumper-sticker size: “Fight like hell.”  According to Begala, “Democrats are in the fight of our life and they need to act like it.”

Begala compared the 2012 election to 1996.  “(Obama’s) right where Bill Clinton was when I was working for him and Clinton was up for re-election and people were freaking out then and (Obama) needs our help,” Begala said. “….It’s time now for Democrats to stand up.  This guy’s been fighting for us. Now we’ve got to fight for him.”

As for the restiveness among Democrats about Obama, Begala chalks that up to the “nature” of being part of his party. “It’s one of Clinton’s laws of politics that Democrats want to fall in love and Republicans just want to fall in line and, you know, so now’s coming the time when we need to fall in line,” Begala said of his fellow Democrats. “And we will.”

Begala suggested he would not bet against Obama’s reelection.  “I do see my Republican friends and they’re all full of themselves and I kind of like that,” Begala said. “I think overconfidence is an occupational hazard on their side.”

Harkin, when asked whether he’s concerned the U.S. Senate may flip to Republican control after the 2012 election, responded initially with one word: “No.”  After prompting with a “Why?” from a reporter, Harkin elaborated:  “Yeah, I’m concerned. Obviously I don’t want to lose the senate,  but I look at all the races out there and we’ve got great candidates. Our incumbents are all looking very, very good and even those that they thought would have tough races, some of them don’t even have opponents yet, and in some of the seats that the Republicans have to defend, we have some vulnerabilities out there on the Republican side, so I think we’re looking pretty good.”

Harkin, in answer to the next question, addressed what it might take to get some Democrats to set their reservations aside and work for Obama’s reelection. “Look, we’re in tough times now. I mean there’s a lot of people out of work. The economy’s in the doldrums, you know, and people want some answers and we’re an impatient people, Americans are. We want our answers yesterday and our solutions yesterday,” Harkin said. “But I think as time goes on and as the Republican field narrows down to one or two persons…People don’t vote for the past. They vote for the future…and when it comes to that, I have no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama is going to win reelection.”

Harkin did say the unemployment rate needs to be “coming down” by November of 2012.

“I wouldn’t put an absolute number on it, but it’s got to be shown that it’s coming down,” Harkin said. “At the least, I think, President Obama has to show that he has a plan, which he’s put forward…and if the Republicans block that, I think the people will know that.”

The crowd for Harkin’s event gathered around tables under the protection of a large tent, as a steady drizzle fell on the field which serves as a launching pad for hot air balloons during Indianola’s annual summer balloon festival.  It’s the same field where Sarah Palin spoke a few weeks ago at a Tea Party rally.