Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Steak Fry Preview: How’s Obama Doin’ in Iowa?" (with videos)

viralvoice's diary on Kos:
With every new YouTube video or press account of the big crowds that Barack Obama continues to draw across Iowa – a state that he’s visited 21 times already in this campaign – it’s clear that even after the novelty of the new face wears off, Iowans remain very, very interested – even “fired up, ready to go” for – Obama.
Obama draws them on his own: without dragging along a former US president or even Oprah Winfrey with him, he brings the people out. And he appears to be closing on the sale.

Keep in mind that in the 2004 Iowa Caucuses, only 124,000 voters turned out. If Obama can turn out 50,000 to the caucuses, he’ll win it outright. So when we see 300, or 400, or 500, or thousands of people come out to hear him in Iowa towns, the math is very encouraging for his chances of a January surprise.

With the annual Harkin Steak Fry coming up on Sunday (and the Cyclones-Hawkeyes showdown at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday), this is as good a time as any to take inventory on how the ground game is going in the bigger arena that is the entire state Democratic presidential contest.

Lots of links and videos at the jump…

It’s an accepted conventional wisdom that John Edwards, with the advantage of having campaigned in Iowa four years ago, has a well-organized campaign there. I think that is evident, too. He got almost 40,000 votes at the 2004 Iowa Caucuses, and he’s very much in the game, that I do not doubt.

I’d very much like to hear from anyone that is in Iowa at present to what degree or not that organization has concretely transferred over to 2008; specific examples, please, not just “I’m here and I say so” comments, would be helpful.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign’s Iowa field organization is in havoc. Again. With its second staff shake-up in three months. Clinton’s Iowa Field Director Angelique Pirozzi (a protégé of the legendary Democratic field organizer Michael Whouley, Pirozzi was caucus manager in Iowa for Kerry in ’04 and deputy caucus manager in Iowa for Gore in ’00), has just mysteriously left the Clinton campaign:

Clinton's campaign would not confirm whether Pirozzi had resigned or had been fired; "She is no longer with the campaign," was all spokesman Mo Elleithee would offer when contacted on the matter.

Anyone got an idea of what happened there? Please do tell! (I’ve sent my own scouts out to gumshoe this one until we get to the bottom of it. Heh.)

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman offers a preview of the Harkin Steak Fry with a lede that suggests the Obama team in Iowa is having much more fun:

Paul Tewes, Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign manager in Iowa, is a tough dude with a preference for blunt replies. I asked him about the views of the Democratic voters who are most likely to show up next January for the presidential caucuses. In general, what do they want to do about Iraq? He had a two-word answer: “GET OUT.”

His story also backs the narrative that I and some others have been floating: that the Democratic nomination fight will turn out to be a referendum on the war in Iraq.

Here’s a video of Obama in Dubuque the other day. It’s the one that first got me writing this diary:

That brief “ice cream music” moment in the video, it turns out, came from the noise emanating from a passing riverboat.

The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald has this even-handed account of the Dubuque event: Obama Decries War Rhetoric.

The Times of London covered the Dubuque speech where Obama continued to close the sale to Iowa voters:

As Mr Obama left the stage and worked the crowd on his way out to the strains of Aretha Franklin’s You Better Think, Dale Blesz, 47, who was undecided between him and Mrs Clinton before the speech, said: “He inspired me to support him.” Can you see him as President? “I really think so. He’s got the moral backbone. He’s far more real than Hillary.”

Diane Dardon, 51, said: “I can see him as President. He’s bold enough to fight for some new ideas.”

Strange things happen in Iowa. John Kerry resurrected his moribund primary campaign here in 2004. Mr Obama told the crowd that he would be coming back often.

Obama also picked up an endorsement this week from State Rep. Helen Miller (D-Fort Dodge):

‘‘Basically, I feel we need a president that can bring our country together. Obama is the person who can do that.’’

Oh. Wait. Stop the presses: Three more Iowa legislators have also just endorsed, CNN reports:

Four Iowa legislators announced Friday that they are throwing their support behind Sen. Barack Obama, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. State Sen. Rich Olive, state Sen. Frank Wood, state Rep. Helen Miller and state Rep. Janet Peterson all said they will back the Illinois Democrat.

"[Obama] used his good judgment to speak out against the war in Iraq before it was popular to do so," Miller said in a statement released by the campaign.

Three hundred Iowans came out the other day to hear Obama in Anamosa, Iowa (population 5,494, and birthplace of Grant Wood, the painter of “American Gothic”):

"I heard a lot of good things today," said Mary Hughes of Anamosa, who hasn't made up her mind which Democrat to support. "I think he's someone who is ready."

Her friend Marilyn Lloyd of rural Anamosa is supporting Obama.

"He has the right answers," Lloyd said. "He was speaking from where I come from."

He even picked up a GOP vote.

"I really liked him," said Steven Kenney Jr. of Martelle, who described himself as a registered Republican. "He's definitely got my vote."

That seemed to reinforce Obama's claim of a "track record of bringing people together around common sense solutions.''

Not directly related to Iowa, but certainly a signals of Obama’s unexpected rural appeal, Obama won a country fair straw poll held by the Nebraska Farm Bureau during Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island, Nebraska this week: Obama, 35; Clinton, 31, Edwards 16.

Also relevant to rural voters, the League of Conservation Voters just gave Obama the highest environmental rating of any presidential candidate:

Obama – 96
Kucinich – 92
Clinton – 90
Biden – 84
Richardson -82
Dodd – 77
Edwards – 59

(One senses that was heard loud and clear all the way to an important set of ears in Tennessee.)

And counting with 258,000 (mostly small) donors begins to pay off when organizing on the ground. Check out this spiffy color booklet Iowa caucus-goers received by mail (and watch the 8 minute DVD enclosed with it, online).

These next two videos have been posted already, but if you haven’t yet clicked them, are well worth a look-see.

The first one is especially moving and also relevant to Iowa; watch as Obama volunteers at the University of Iowa put together and pull out a crowd of thousands for an Obama speech there:

Tomorrow, Iowa State University Students for Barack Obama will be “tailgating for Obama” in the morning hours leading up to the big football game between the Iowa State Cyclones and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

And here’s a fun video about Obama’s return to the Steak Fry, with some “choice” and “prime” facts showing how Obama has the strongest field organization in the state:

So, who’s in Iowa tonight?Who’s going to the Steak Fry?

And what more can you tell those of us that can’t be there about what is happening on the ground in the Hawkeye State?



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