OSKALOOSA, IOWA—This charming small downtown is the first stop of Barack Obama’s July 4th campaign day, where an overflow crowd has formed in and outside the Smokey Row coffeehouse. The Democratic presidential candidate is joined by wife Michelle and daughters Malia, who is celebrating her 9th birthday today and sister Sasha, who is six.
On deck: Obama will hold a press conference in Pella—the time was changed from this afternoon in order to accommodate reporters, said Iowa Press Secretary Tommy Vietor, who is riding on bus with the traveling Obama press corps. The day will end at an Iowa Cubs game in Des Moines.
The Obama family is traveling in an RV, Sunseeker by Forest River. After Obama speaks and takes his time shaking hands and chatting with folks, his daughters go to the town square park across the street—with a gazebo decked out with flag bunting--and talk to a couple about their dog, a nine-week old Wheaten terrier.
Iowa fights hard to keep its first-in-the-nation vote and a reason is that it creates an economic boom for the state. Here’s a vivid example. Just next door to Smokey Joe’s is a book store named the Book Vault, so titled because it is housed in a former financial institution and the old vault now holds volumes.
Being July 4th, the independent book store would normally be closed. If not for the Obama visit, “We wouldn’t have been open otherwise,” said bookseller Jane Funi. “We probably will have in three hours what we will have in a regular work day. It was well worth it,” she said. They sold out their copies (about five each) of Obama’s best sellers, his memoir and his latest, “The Audacity of Hope.”
At 10:50 a..m. central time, the Book Vault sales totaled $536.10.
Over at Smokey Joe, Michelle Obama introduces her husband and said the family did not join him on Tuesday in Iowa because the girls camp had a haunted house visit scheduled they did not want to miss.
Michelle talks about how there is “something very special about Barack” and refers to his race for this U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. She said that took place a “long time ago.” Well, the primary was in March, 2004 and the general election in November of that year.
“What happened in Illinois is the same thing that is happening now,” citing Obama’s outstanding win with 70 percent of the vote. He won, Michelle Obama said, “because people wanted to believe in something better.” And because he was running against a Maryland Republican import who had no association with Illinois, the right-wing extremist Alan Keyes, who ran a nutcase campaign.
Obama, when it was his turn, praised Michelle as being “too smart” to want to run for president. “She just wants to tell the president what to do,” he said.
Obama is starting to slowly work President Bush’s grant of clemency to former Vice President Lewis “Scooter” Libby, letting him avoid prison, in his stump. He credits colleague Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) when he borrows Durbin’s pithy quote of quotes, that even Paris Hilton had to serve time.