Des Moines, Iowa---"Oh, oh, oh, Obama!" is one of the favorite chants of the Obama supporters. But today, it's all about getting a first hand look at another "O" celebrity, television diva, Oprah Winfrey, who is stumping for her favorite presidential candidate in two events; Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.
Although no one would go on record, one highly placed Obama pol told off-the-bus that they are expecting about 10,000 Iowans to attend the Des Moines event.
"It's a chance to see Oprah, of course, but it's also a good way to expose Barack Obama to those who remain uncommitted or who don't normally participate in the caucus," said Tommy Vietor, Iowa Spokesperson for Obama.
In a race this tight, where women have historically made up 59% of the total caucus vote, Oprah's daytime talk show boasts a loyal audience of about 40,000 in Central Iowan, mostly women between the ages of 25 and 55.
Sandi Anderson from Des Moines falls into the 'Oprah' demographic that Obama is trying to capture. She's twenty-six and Freedom, her three-year-old daughter, walked into the Obama office in downtown Des Moines late last night hoping "all the tickets weren't gone."
"I've seen Hillary Clinton but I haven't seen Barack yet. I'm a big Oprah fan, so now I can listen to his idea about how to get out of Iraq and see Oprah."
After she wrote her name, address, phone number, and email coordinates down, the young staffers handed her two white general admission tickets.
"My husband, Robert, well, soon-to-be-former husband, served two tours in Iraq in '04 and '05. He came back an alcoholic with mental problems. He got abusive. He's an Army Reservist and the Army said they couldn't give him anymore health services because he's a reservist. Can you believe that?"
Freedom was given her name out of love for their country and honoring her father's service said Anderson.
"I called everyone at the Army and they said he [Robert] had used his healthcare in Germany, where he was hospitalized after receiving a wound to his hand, and didn't qualify for anymore because he was only a reservist. It got so bad at home that I had to protect myself and our daughter. He's in a mental institution now."
With typical Midwestern stoicism, Anderson shared her story with off-the-bus, recounting the tragedy of one family in Iowa, who has witnessed the 'other side' of Iraq War.
"This is the biggest issue for me. Getting out troops out of Iraq safely and then taking care of them after they get back," said Anderson.
Anderson and Freedom left Obama's office and I couldn't help but think that this 'Oprah Strategy' might just pull in a few more hundred votes for him on January 3. In a caucus that is expected to draw upwards to 130,000 people, the majority women, it's a demographic all the top tier candidates are wooing.
Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, are campaigning in Iowa this weekend. Clinton's mother will be campaigning here next week, along with former President Bill Clinton. It's a full court press to "Ramp up Outreach to Women of Iowa," according to the press release I received yesterday from the Iowa Clinton campaign.
A politically active uncommitted female friend of mine - age 50 - is waiting to receive her third ticket to the Obama event. She called me this morning and said, "I got a call from Hillary's office this morning saying that Hillary and Chelsea are going to be stopping at Palmer's Deli over on
Ingersoll Avenue, but I'm not going. I've heard her before. It's already snowing. I hope it doesn't get too bad before the 3 o'clock."
3:30 P.M. is the magic time for the "O" event at the Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. Another foot of snow is predicted to slam the state today and it's already snowing here.
Then again, Iowans are a tough lot, which is no news to presidential candidates, who are
pulling all the rabbits out of their hats to snag the most important voters in this race - women.
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