New Years Eve 6:30 p.m.
Des Moines, Iowa
It's been tough finding the time to keep up with this journal as the sheer burden of reporting has become so enormous. Last night it was a rafters-to-basement crush at an Obama rally in Des Moines where the candidate was more whipped up than ever. From there to dinner at the trendy downtown Centro restaurant, the veritable winter-time summer camp for all journos and political operatives. Look up the words Total Scene in the dictionary to see a picture of it.
I walked in the door only to bump into L.A. Mayor Tony Villaraigosa who was, it seems, delighted to be going back home after putting in a few days campaigning with Hillary. Then down to dinner with about every scribe and yapper known to humanity. I was with some of our HuffPost and OffTheBus comrades, flanked by a table of Joe Biden operatives. By the fourth beer I was able to wrangle a promised cabinet appointment from them if Joe is elected - either one as likely as a warm day the beach in Ottumwa.
Was up very late and got up in time to get onto a national Obama campaign conference call for the daily spin. Knocked out a quick piece on his campaign strategy and then it was time to hustle downtown to a Huckabee presser. Who knew it was gonna be one of the great moments of a dying 2007? Read all about it and learn how even Baptist ministers can be conniving politicians - in this case maybe too clever by one half.
From Huck to a late lunch and then a zip over to Urbandale to watch big ole' Fred Thompson lumber through a visit to his own campaign headquarters. Fred, as usual, doesn't have much to say about much nothin', as you know. Never has one presidential candidate done spent so much time saying and doing so darn little. Even when I threw him a softball, asking him to respond to Huck's meltdown earlier in the day, all Fred could say was "He's doin' his thing. That allows me to be doin' my thing. I really am not much concerned about what the other candidates are doing."
Natch. When you don't care much about your own campaign, it does seem pointless to worry about the other guys. Fred was decked out in a wonderful, full-length blue wool coat but, alas, no Gucci loafers.
That coat's gonna come in handy tonight as the weather is turning even colder, if that's possible, and snow is falling just east of here. That might spoil tonight's big Bill and Hill party planned for downtown Des Moines - though they have both been promising, if elected, to protect us against all those horrible uncertainties looming out there. Can Billary stop a blizzard? We'll find out.
Later tonight we'll also find out the results in the final and much-awaited Des Moines Register poll--usually the most reliable the countless surveys taken here during caucus season. So the heck with you dullards out in Times Square. This is where the real action is. See you manana - next year.
Live Iowa Campaign Journal - Blowing Bubbles
Des Moines, Iowa
Chasing around Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, I traveled today from Davenport to Eldridge to Knoxville and finally back to Des Moines. And while it was only a couple hundred miles mostly along I-80, it might as well have been hopping from one world to another.
Retail ground campaigns like those run in Iowa are not just bubbles, but veritable self-contained ecospheres. Candidate events are packed with mostly self-selecting audiences and trying to venture a guess as to who's ahead and who's not, who's got the Big Mo or the Big Slow, simply by sizing up campaign rallies is a fool's errand.
During the 2004 campaign, for example, even as Howard Dean was collapsing in the polls, his closing Iowa rallies were huge, electric events. John Kerry was in ascension but his meet-and-greets were low key, sometimes even dour and funereal. Only among Edwards' folks could you feel something like authentic momentum and, indeed, he came from nowhere to almost win.
Watching Edwards this afternoon and evening, as he spoke to cheering overflow crowds, he was surely trying to replicate his last-week boom of '04. "I've felt this energy, this excitement, this momentum before and it's real. It's no accident," he said to a Des Moines audience of more than a 1000 roaring supporters a few hours ago.
Obama said very much the same thing yesterday to a jazzed up crowed and will do so again Sunday night when he's scheduled to hold a big rally in Des Moines.
And this morning, hundreds showed up an hour or so in advance to pack a rural community meeting room for Hillary Clinton.
But, again, beware of making any definitive judgments based on crowd size or mood. Go to an Edwards event and you'd think most Democrats were t-shirted steelworkers. At an Obama rally it seems the whole world is a university. And Hillary's world -at least here in Iowa-- seems composed mostly of lawyers and schoolteachers, retired schoolteachers.
At the Edwards and Obama events the room brims with the dreamers and doers who want to change the world, or at least part of it. And that's at whom the two candidates aim their talks. And they're doing it extremely well in these final days. Inside the Hillary bubble, it's a different crew. Here are the folks who want mostly to change who is in the White House and don't seem to invest that much in politics itself. Oprah may have endorsed Barack Obama, but it's Hillary who speaks directly to her audience: the more apolitical, the less ideological.
Three candidates. Two different worlds.
Sunday I will spend with the steelworkers as they go out canvassing for Edwards. Their goal: to do some last-minute changing of minds, if not of the world itself.
To read the rest of my live campaign journal from Iowa click here.
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