1.03.2008

Happy caucus day, unless you are the person at the Bill Richardson event who stole my camera.

That's right, people: I had loads of good candidate (and candidate-family-member) photos on my camera, but someone snatched it at the Bill Richardson event last night at the Mill. This alone wouldn't make me think poorly of Richardson supporters, except that they were also cutting in line at the bar, and the only thing I hate more than people who cut in line are people who cut in line when you really want a goddamned drink. In contrast, the Dodd supporters this morning at an event were saintly folk who repeatedly helped me with my baby, who had acquired a case of crankypantsitis and had to excuse himself from the event, which in turn required placing him back into his snowsuit to brave the -1 temperature outside. Thank you, Dodd supporters.

Since I cannot show you pictures worth one thousand words (apiece), I will instead provide you with some observations by using one thousand words or so.

Enthusiasm
At every event I attended, the space was packed. Obviously, the second-tier candidates were in smaller venues, but the support was nevertheless impressive. Biden was in a room that should have held maybe 100, and there were at least 200-250 crammed in there. Richardson must have had 300-400 in a space meant for 200-250. Dodd had around 200-250 in a space meant for 100. I would not be surprised if Biden were viable in many precincts.

Demographics
You could definitely see demographic differences among the supporters of the various candidates. Clinton: definitely heavily female (I'd guess 2/3 female, seemingly a mix of 50+ and college students). Obama: younger, though not exclusively so, with good diversity. Edwards: 45-60-year-old couples. Biden: older, solid blue-collar representation. Dodd: older, but more of the academic/suburban vibe (lots of nice-quality cable-knit sweaters). Richardson: age range of about 20-50, with quite a few people sporting a rancher vibe. Of course, there were quite a few people like me who were attending all of the events. Also, I did meet a good number of Republicans and independents checking out the Democratic events - they weren't necessarily planning to caucus but just wanted to see the candidates.

Oratorical Style
The three leading candidates' messages have converged. This was one of the most interesting things about seeing so many events in such close succession. One of Obama's points has long been that he has always made good choices - even before people were watching him. Clinton adopted that same point and even that same language. (I also read online that she'd swiped his fired up/ready to go chant.) Meanwhile, presumably as the result of Clinton's criticism of Obama that "hope" was not enough and Edwards's criticism that perhaps Obama is too nice, Obama said in his talk that he was ready to "work hard for change and fight for change," which are the phrases that Clinton and Edwards, respectively, use. And I read that Edwards is now saying he'd be able to work with Congress and wouldn't fight them, since his whole approach has been that he could fight "them," which then led to criticism that he was a prescription for gridlock.

All three of the top-tier candidates unrelentingly project confidence. It can be almost offputting since it strikes one (or me, at least) as narcissistic, which in turn reminds one of the current occupants of the White House. But it is probably a necessity.

The three second-tier candidates, in contrast, are much more liberated. They speak much more off-the-cuff, make unscripted jokes, and are more enjoyable to watch, frankly. They all still fire up their supporters and say that they'll show the media and the pundits (usually using those words) by finishing strong, but who knows whether they really believe that or not. I particularly enjoyed Biden's style, which had this nifty old-school element to it: he would intersperse the phrase "ladies and gentlemen" frequently as he addressed his listeners, and I can't say exactly why, but I just loved it. It seemed both warm and respectful, as if he were laying out his beliefs and hoping we would judge them positively.

Security
There is very little security at these events. No bags are checked or anything like that. Obama and Clinton, however, have Secret Service with them. While the agents were positioned around the rooms, monitoring the crowd, that just didn't seem as secure as it should. I guess they know what they're doing, though, or they assume that anyone who wanted to do something bad would be too inept to get it done in a crowd. When Clinton and Obama worked the crowd, shaking hands, however, Secret Service was in force then. There would be several agents right around the candidate, and several others on the crowd side, presumably to foil anyone who actually meant harm.

Miscellany
I met an old guy at the Biden event who said he remembered being four years old and seeing Harry Truman on one of those whistlestop tours.
Chelsea Clinton is looking really good these days.
Hillary Clinton also looked quite good in person, I thought.
There must be hundreds of volunteers from out of town in Iowa City right now, canvassing and calling and attending events.
I must have had lengthy conversations with 25 people at the various events. This part was enjoyable: everyone was very interested in hearing others' opinions of the candidates, even if they were in a different party or whatever.

My young offspring is waking up from his nap, so I must go now. I will plan to take some video or photos (with my phone) tonight. Happy caucus day!

9 comments:

dunkeys said...
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dunkeys said...

SER, I've been meaning to say thanks for all the great posts (and I imagine I speak for others). Here in the land of Brit and Posh, it's nice to remember that politics are a 'real' thing happening on the same tiny screen as Nicole Ritchie's slow wither into grapevine. Good work! Find and destroy the camera thief! Rock the caucus!

TLB said...

I must concur with Dunkeys. In the frozen tundra of the north, it's good to remember that there are still places where things that matter happen. Wish I were there.

Grendel said...

Some thoughts:

Turns out "Clinton" is not a brand. He is a person. A very special person. Voters looking for someone like him found Obama, not Hillary.

Obama's performance was broad and strong in most areas of Iowa. Especially with independents, who are legion in New Hampshire. How does anyone stop his momentum?

Huckabee's win doesn't mean much. He will come in third in New Hampshire at best. Republican nomination is just getting started. Nothing was resolved last night for them. If anything, the fissures deepened.

Obama, Edwards, and Hillary all got more votes than Huckabee. Democratic turnout was phenomenal. That bodes very well.

Grendel said...

By the way, CJ's daughter won our contest. Well played, wise 7-year-old! Send me that quote (earthgoat at gmail dot com).

cj said...

I'll pass that along! You might be seeing a SpongeBob quote at the top of the page soon . . .

Interesting caucus footnote: Romney and Huckabee split all of Iowa counties between them, except for one. Check out the results in Jefferson County, home of Fairfield and the Maharishi University (which, after all, offers a minor in World Peace):

Paul: 298
Huckabee: 263
Romney: 132
Others: 146

Trevor Jackson said...

Wow. I'm really pleased to have been wrong. I'll take a decisive and historic victory because of amazing turnout over a tepid squeaker because of lackluster support.

Iowa just validated its place as first with that massive increase in turnout. And, more important, Obama showed that he can a)organize and b) appeal across the aisle. Lots of Republicans and independents braved long lines and overheated gyms to stand with Obama. I'm very impressed. His acceptance speech was thrilling.

Thanks to SER for such excellent reporting under difficult circumstances.

cj said...
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cj said...

Mea culpa -- I have to retract my "rural bias" allegation. I've been hashing it out with the people over at pollster.com, and I now realize that there just isn't enough data to draw any conclusions about rural bias in the delegate apportionment.

I've got to stop blogging on too little sleep . . .