(photo by Lynn Sweet) Barack Obama predicted a high caucus turnout on Thursday. HIs campaign has been heavily courting the youth vote; recruiting at rallies, where this photo was taken.
POOL REPORT From: Abdon M. Pallasch, Political Reporter, Chicago Sun-Times
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama spent a half-hour Thursday afternoon greeting diners at a downtown Des Moines food court.
People swarmed around him, wishing him luck, saying he inspired them and promising to caucus for him Thursday night.
"You are going to win big tomorrow," one man told him.
"We'd love to have you caucus for us tonight," Obama said in a very horse voice.
He asked some Republicans to consider voting for him in the general election.
He answered questions about how he expected to do in the caucus or about the polls with "I feel good" or "We're doing great."
He reached over the counter and shook hands with workers at the Subway sandwich shop.
Zanata Moore-El asked Obama if he was an atheist.
"I'm a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ," Obama replied. "Don't read e-mails."
E-mails have circulated in recent weeks saying Obama is a Muslim or an atheist or took his oath of office on a Quran instead of a bible, none of which his true.
"I hated having to ask him that," Moore-El said. "But I heard he was like an atheist. I don't want a president who's an atheist. I'm a firm believer in God. I just really wanted to make sure because I really wanted to vote for him and he has some good topics and everything."
"I've been to every caucus since 1972 and I'm going for you tonight," Karen Ritchie, 67, told Obama.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Karen, she said.
"Thank you so much, Karen," he said.
Barbara Adams, Math Coordinator for the Des Moines Public Schols, shook his hand and he told her, "That is such an important job. Tell me what we can do to improve math and science teaching."
He listened to Adams as she briefly advocated more professional development for teachers, better teacher pay -- a subject Obama mentions in his stump speech -- and the use of technology to make the subjects more interesting to students.
"Mr. Obama, can you sign this for me?" a man said pushing a dollar bill at Obama.
"I can't sign dollar bills," Obama told him. "It's against the law and I've got all these federal officials here. They'd arrest me. I'd sign something else though, if you can find a piece of paper." The man did and he signed it.
Anastasia Walsh, who owns a Panda Express at the court, approached Obama twice to complain about rising food prices and about ethanol issues.
He talked with her, saying, "We have to use less gas. With ethanol, we need to move to not use so much corn, use other things such as switch grass, wood chips..."
She kept interrupting him to complain about rising prices and he said, "Let me see if I can do something. I'm not president yet."
She begged him to come to her Panda Express -- "Come to my store. I give you drink!" -- but he said he had already eaten and had to go.