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Sweet Iowa JJ live blog 6: The bottom sort of line. UPDATES


DES MOINES, IA.—After six Democratic presidential candidates gave speeches over four-hours Saturday night at the big Iowa state party dinner, I talked with the emcee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

“I thought everybody had a good show,” she told me. “I do think that most everybody in the room was spoken for.”

What’s left to figure is if the speeches and organizational shows of force inside the Veterans Memorial Auditorium here will translate into a course change in the Democratic primary race in Iowa and beyond.

Some points:
*Dodd, Biden Richardson did nothing special to bring up their score. They delivered speeches, not momenteum changing stemwinders.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was pretty highbrow for a red meat crowd, musing about the poetry of Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson gets credit for bringing up Darfur and trying to stand out as the race is starting to take a negative turn. "I believe it is ok to point out policy differences...the American people, the voters of Iowa, they want a positive campaign." Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct.) had a good string of "no more" to a range of Bush administration abuses.

(And on Heaney, Pelosi bolstered Bide. "Seamus Heaney. I recommend his newest translation of Beowulf.")

*Obama wins on the organizational front. At the Jefferson Jackson dinner, the bleaches are supposed to be packed with supporters. That’s what Pelosi was talking about. Obama had more sections of supporters. He had his name up in lights on both sides of the arena. He had signs for each of Iowa’s 99 counties. In the context of trying to get out your vote at the Jan. 3 caucus, Saturday provided an impressive dry run.

*The Obama speech. He was pitch perfect in framing this election, this time ,as being “a defining moment’’ of history. “America, our moment is now.” He reprised his famous “red state blue state” line from his 2004 Democratic Convention speech. Obama conveyed a sense of urgency and destiny for his candidacy, his life journey.

This line might have been intended to plug his experience gap. There’s no waiting for next time, he said. “I believe there is such a thing as being too late.”

Did Obama go too negative? He did not mention Clinton by name. But who else could Obama be accusing of triangulating—a political word invented to describe President Clinton--and taking “poll driven positions.” And who else but Clinton could be accused of taking positions because of what “Mitt or Rudy” might say. Romney and Giuliani, to paraphrase Clinton, are some of the Republicans who are “obsessed” by her.

Clinton senior advisor Mark Penn told me after the Obama speech that he did get in “a series of digs.”

*The Clinton speech. She presented herself as a fighter. She anticipated and addressed smartly in a pre-emptive manner the outstanding issues against her, dealing pretty well on electability, in particular by talking about her red state endorsements. New slogan “Turn up the heat” a political temperature counter to Obama’s “Fired up.”

*The Edwards speech. Effective, but not sure it will swing momenteum his way in a big way. Will give leaners a reason for a second look, which is not good for Clinton or Obama since Iowa is essentially deadlocked.

Edwards was impassioned. “We’re better than this.” “Trust your heart,” he said. I took that to mean this: Iowa voters, don’t game this out and not vote for me because I may not be the front-runner like Obama and Clinton.

He’s trying for a level playing field, since in the next 53 days, he will face the full force of the Clinton and Obama organizations and tv money. He made a good decision not to go after Clinton since he slammed her earlier in the day over a planted question in a town hall meeting.


You mention there are six Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa this weekend, but you've only covered Obama, Clinton and Edwards. What about the other three guys? It would be nice to know 1) who they are, 2) where they stand on issues, and 3) how well they did.

Throw us a bone here. Most of the people reading this aren't in Iowa with you.

Watched the Edwards speech on YouTube ( and was very impressed. His "We're better than this" conveys the same theme as Howard Dean's "We can do better than this" (from 2003/2004) and is rhetorically more effective.

I particularly liked Edwards's call for removing Congress's health benefits if they don't pass universal coverage by July 2009. That's quite a contrast from Obama's promise to pass universal coverage "by the end of my first term." Not hard to see who is more committed to the issue. (Edwards also came out with his health care plan first; Obama's and Clinton's, unveiled later are remarkably similar....)

"well, look" between that "well, look", or "look", what does the junior senator from illinois really have to say? "look", i propose a daily count of how many times in how many events, does the gentleman fill his voids with, "well, look", "look", "well". is this an effort to be kennedy-esque....those "ah" poses.

I think Obama gave the best speech and it was excellent. I caught the video of his speech last week in spartanburg which I was blown away and hoped he would use alot of it in his JJ speech. he clearly did not disappoint.
The digs at Hillary were absolutely on target and true. I for one do not want to go backwards to the dramas and triangulations and games of the 90s. I am so sick of both Clintons and this country needs to desperately move away from the destructiveness of the past 20 years.
close that chapter. We really need to move on.
The part where obama used the MLK quote was perfect.
Only those with small minds and narrow vision cannot see the vision and substance and intelligence of Obama.

I live in Iowa, have seen all six of the Democratic candidates in person, and am supporting Barack Obama. I just sent my undecided sister-in-law four links:
#1 - Andrew Sullivan's Atlantic Monthly piece, "Goodby to All That." Sullivan presents a well-argued thesis as to why Obama is the right candidate for right now.
#2 - Obama's appearance on yesterday's "Meet the Press." Even in the face of Russert's "gotcha" style of questioning, Senator Obama displays the thoughtful, reasonable intelligence that convinced me to support him.
#3 - Samantha Powers on Charlie Rose speaking to Obama's approach on foreign policy.
#4 - Obama's speech from the JJ dinner on Saturday night. Once you've taken the time to examine the substance behind it, his oratorical skills are not just impressive; they're downright inspiring. For the first time since I turned 18, I'll be voting for a candidate - not against one.

I greatly look forward to February 6, 2008 when the Obama blitzkrieg will be over and I won't have to hear his name shoved down my throat every day. The packaging looks and sounds great, the box is empty. So all of you groupies who like style are getting your fill of one of the slickest snake oil salesman to hit town in a long time. Go for it!!

Jim in Chicago - Remove Congress's health benefits? lol - that would take some REAL bipartisan work! It's a good soundbite, but I prefer to support the candidate most likely to get the job done. That would be Obama. (As for the "we're better than this" line, it's hardly unique to Edwards - for one, Bill Clinton over a year ago: )

jeffery mcnary - We're not choosing between the speech mannerisms Obama picked up from his Kansas grandfather, and Hillary's rather peculiar laugh she picked up who knows where. We are picking - now listen up here, it's important - the next President. You're certainly entitled to your own priorities, but I find them...well...about as peculiar as they come.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 11, 2007 1:37 AM.

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