OSKALOOSA, Iowa — The crowd of several hundred was still getting settled in at the Smokey Row coffee house when the Barack Obama trivia questions started to fly.
What did he do after graduating from Columbia University in 1983? How did he meet his wife? Where were his parents born?
For those who have closely followed the Illinois Democrat's political rise, the questions are not challenging enough for the sort of Trivial Pursuit game Obama's campaign has started playing in recent days with crowds before he appears on stage at rallies.
But for the majority of the hundreds of Iowans assembled in the coffee house, the answers to the candidate biography questions were anything but obvious.
Even after national magazine cover stories, hundreds of television and newspaper interviews and two best-selling books, most of those who will cast the first votes of the nominating process next January know very little about the senator.
"People are not connected into this process," the candidate's wife, Michelle Obama, said later. "The average person is not paying attention yet to this race."
The lack of knowledge about Obama's background is one reason his campaign recently started running biography ads in Iowa. The ads, running statewide on television and radio, feature details about his life and career.
Because his opponents often subtly suggest that he is too inexperienced to lead the nation, his campaign says it is trying to counter that notion by increasingly fleshing out his biography before he ascended to the national stage.
"We think his experience is an asset, so these ads are designed to ensure people know the entirety of his career," said Tommy Vietor, Obama's Iowa press secretary.
But it is clear from Obama's audiences that much work remains to be done if voters are going to learn enough about him to go out on a cold winter night and spend a few hours caucusing for him.
Sheila Denburger, who is thinking about supporting Obama in the Iowa caucuses, said she only knew three of six questions asked. And that was after watching his TV ads and skimming his second book Tuesday evening.
"I like the message that I hear from him: that we need to work together to address the issues," said Denburger, a real estate agent who also runs a 5,000-head hog operation with her husband.
Even Trish Clark, the area college student who was asked to read the questions before Obama spoke, said she only knew answers to two of the questions before studying up before the event.
Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director, said the ads are running "indefinitely" and that his poll numbers are likely to grow as people learn more about him.
"People think he was created in July 2004 at the Democratic National Convention," said Gibbs, who is traveling full time with the candidate to help him sharpen his message.
Noting his massive fundraising effort, which raised $32.5 million during the second quarter, Obama said he knows he is going to have to spend a lot of time and money to get better-known.
"One of the things that we have to do here in Iowa and all across the country is to get well-known," he said. "We are going to have both the resources and grass-roots base that's going to allow us to compete fiercely and aggressively all the way through."
Amid a 4th of July campaign tour of a baseball game and picnics, Obama addressed the question on the minds of many of the political reporters who have descended on Iowa this week: What do you think about Bill Clinton campaigning with his wife for the first time in her presidential campaign?
During a 15-minute meeting with reporters, Obama took a subtle slap at the Clintons, who are campaigning under the banner "Ready for Change, Ready to Lead."
"Change can't just be a slogan," he said.
Besides holiday events, the Obama family also celebrated the 9th birthday of Malia, the older of the Obamas' two daughters.
Also Wednesday, Politico.com reported that a man was arrested outside the hotel where Obama had stayed in Ottumwa, Iowa, after a concealed knife was discovered and he failed to produce a driver's license. There was no threat to the candidate.