I'm just in from Chicago having traveled I-80 and the flat snowscape that is western Illinois. I've finally arrived in Iowa City, just in time to catch the end of John Edwards' talk with caucus goers at the downtown Capanna Coffee and Gelato. I'm not sure if I'll get in, and it looks as though the event has ended as there are many people out in front of the corner coffee shop.
There are people spilling out the doorway onto the stone walk in front, peering frantically in the window with their cameras to get a shot of Edwards. Several young campaign workers with reddened noses make the rounds, somehow managing to ask people to sign supporter cards.
By some strange stroke of luck, I manage to squeeze all 5-feet-1-inch of myself through the crowd which is not an easy task.
I can hear Edwards talking, though I still can't catch a glimpse of him, yet. He's well into his 36-hour marathon meeting with Iowans and looks remarkably energetic given the schedule. I wonder if he's had a wink of sleep at all. The room is packed with typical Edwards supporters, from what I remember from the other Edwards' events I've been to in the last months. They are families with babies, big kids, middle age couples, students, there are many near retirement age.
I must be later than I realize, as Edwards goes into a brief question and answer session and it's clear the event is ending. But the packed room remains so, with press and attendees standing on chairs around the perimeter of the room. Luckily I find a sturdy chair too, and hoist myself up.
A question about universal healthcare has been asked and from where I am it's a bit difficult to hear Edwards' answer, but I've now got a good view. Someone has just asked a question about the recent WGA strike and organized labor.
In his response Edwards says, "These are just, middle class working Americans. For the last year, I have walked picket lines and have been personally involved in organizing campaigns," he continues. "Because I am completely committed to the cause of organized labor!" This response results in loud cheering.
It looks like there is no more time for questions as he says, "If you have a question that you want answered, we're very short on time now...." He then reminds the crowd about the section of his website called "Ask John", where anyone, especially undecided voters, can submit a question to him on any issue.
Edwards promises, "I will answer your questions before the caucus tomorrow night."
He ends with a phrase meant to reference the big money game of the other two leading candidates and a two part declaration of what he'll do if elected.
"The last thing I want to say, you know, you can feel the energy, I'm standing on my toes so I can see you guys in the back, you can feel the energy and enthusiasm for this campaign, I am not imagining this, it is real, It is a movement, a movement of great opportunity... to show that in Iowa, we're going to have an election, not an auction (to whoops and cheers and yells), and I need you, everyone of you. I am asking you to go to the caucus for me, asking you to reach out to your friends, bring as many of your friends with you as you can to the caucus... and here's what I'll do for you in return: Number one, I will fight for you with every fiber of my being and number two, I'm going to give you back the real Democratic Party in America!" This draws more sustained cheers and yells.
Edwards stays to shake hands with several people in attendance for a few minutes. It's then, I notice a smaller crowd of people to the left of the room surrounding Elizabeth Edwards. Again, there's that energetic look on her face, too. There are a few hugs and handshakes from some of the women around her. She poses for a photo with a young girl.
I introduce myself and mention our interview on homeschooling, she remembers, saying "That article got a lot of play." I wish her good luck and she thanks me, but the night is young and after several more handshakes with supporters she is off with her husband and the campaign to Cedar Rapids for a 5 p.m. event then onto the big final rally with John Mellencamp in West Des Moines at 9 p.m. tonight.