NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan and Carrie Dann:
DES MOINES, IA -- Multi-candidate events are always difficult to navigate, especially when rival campaigns might have to share a ballroom after sniping at each other for the past week.
At last night's banquet for Sisters on Target – a black women's political activism group in central Iowa – the two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination managed to avoid sharing the stage, thanks to Hillary Clinton's early exit after the sorbet was served and Barack Obama's arrival well afterwards.
But the candidate who might have been the most short-changed by their delicate dance moves was Sen. Joe Biden, who was introduced just as Obama was entering the room. Biden, who spoke after Republican John Cox, had his introduction drowned out as guests peered behind them to see Obama's entrance.
The senator from Delaware was good-natured about the last-minute shift of limelight. He waited until Obama had finished shaking handso before launching into a forceful speech on the rights of African-American prisoners. Characteristically a long-winded speaker, Biden even offered to give up some of his allotted time to his colleague.
"I'm not going to make that poor guy hold that red sign up," he joked, pointing to the organizer who subtly held a piece of red construction paper aloft when speakers' time was running short. "Hillary made him hold it up for 12 minutes … I'm going to guess Barack will make it a minute or two too."
"You can have the extra time beyond the time that I have," he added.
Biden earned a sympathetic laugh from the crowd, but it was tough to compete with the two political supernovas, who were both received with deafening cheers and a flurry of flashbulbs.
In her remarks, Clinton reiterated that she's not running because she's a woman, but she lauded the women in the room for their contribution to their communities. "If you want something done," she said, "ask a busy woman to do it."
Obama was applauded for his acknowledgement - in front of a black audience – of the role of race in his campaign. "'I'm not sure that America is ready for a African-American president.' I get that sometimes," he told the crowd.
"I'm not in it for a symbolic presence," he added. "We've done that before."
Obama, the last presidential candidate to take the stage, also couldn't resist a parting shot at the competition. "I'm not going to win just by being the most calculating politician in this race," he said.