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The crowd had filled out to its full size of 12,000 (probably minus a few no shows).

I stopped to talk to two women who were sporting Hillary stickers. I asked them where they were from. “Grinell, Iowa.” I asked them who they were supporting. “Hillary or Obama. They both have platforms we agree with.” One said, “It’s a triumph of American politics I’d like to see. Both are smart.” I asked if they would be participating in the caucus. Both said they have in the past, and they will this time, too.

Senator Tom Harkin introduced his six guests in the order they were speaking. The crowd response to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards was big and about the same for each. The candidates had contingents of supporters, but most in the crowd applauded all of them.

One of my traveling companions noted that this was probably indicative of the current state of the race in Iowa.

I noticed more than a few people with stickers of most, if not all, of the candidates plastered on their shirts.

A singer performed the national anthem with pre-recorded accompaniment. Her rendition was heartfelt and definitely unique. Most people would have had difficulty singing along with her. I noticed that all of the candidates except Obama held their hands over their hearts. Obama held his hands folded in front of him throughout [This is not criticism – the “hand over the heart” looked awkward on the stage – I was standing in the same fashion as Obama].

As the speechifying started I realized I wasn’t going to be able to talk to people in the crowd. They were paying attention to whoever was speaking on the stage. I later made the mistake of trying to talk to some Edwards supporters after he had finished speaking. A woman dismissed me with [rightly so], “I’m trying to listen to this speaker…”

The candidates spoke in an order determined at random. First up was Barack Obama:

…Some of the reason you’re all out here. You’re sick and tired of George Bush…

Barack Obama supporters started trickling to the exits after he spoke.

A man noticed me and my press pass. He came up to me and said, “Have you ever noticed when people run for office they sound like a dictator? They’ll say they’ll do this, but don’t mention there’s a Congress they’ll have to work with or anything.” I listened politely. He walked away.

Bill Richardson:

…Al Gore has been right, we all just hope he doesn’t get in the race…

…with Bill Richardson you get change and experience…

Hillary Clinton was introduced and a good portion of the crowd got on its feet:

…building a new field of dreams for the country we love, and we’re going to take it back…

If you’re ready for change, I’m ready to lead…

…[referring to the Bush administration] The era of cowboy diplomacy is over…

…[referring to cabinet appointments] let’s appoint qualified people to do the job in America again…

…[a 90 year old woman] said, ‘I was born before a woman could vote and now I’m going to see a woman in the White House’…

A number of Hillary Clinton supporters exited the grounds after she spoke.

Chris Dodd:

…doing something greater than ourselves…

…All 12,000 of you are invited to spend Inaugural night at the White House [Harkin supposedly quipped, “We’ll all be there.”]

John Edwards:

…When we walk away from the poor and defenseless our party loses its identity…

…We need more than the rhetoric of change…

…[the system] is broken. It does not work for ordinary Americans. When you give [corporate interests] a seat at the table, they’ll eat all the food…

…I don’t want to see us replace corporate republicans with corporate Democrats…

…George Bush has not damaged America’s standing in the world, he’s destroyed it…

Every [war] funding bill sent to Bush should have a timetable for withdrawal…

Most of the crowd started to stream out.

Joe Biden:

…I’ve also seen ‘Field of Dreams’, but if I’m not mistaken this [event] has taken longer than nine innings…

…George Bush has made it abundantly clear that he will not end this war. One of us on this stage will have to end it…

…This war must end…

[He somberly recited the number of  American dead and wounded in Iraq to date]…

Joe Biden’s speech was well received by the crowd that remained.

The event was certainly interesting. The press pass made it more so, surreal even.

I never made it to the press filing/blogger building.

I had given my full admission ticket to one of our traveling companions who didn’t have a ticket. My press pass got me on to the grounds, but I still never got a chance to plunk down the ten dollars to get something to eat.

Getting out was easier than getting in. By the time we made it to the parking lot most people had already left. It reminded me of the crowd at a sporting event leaving with time still on the clock.

We drove past long lines of people walking back to the cars they had parked further out when they tried avoiding the traffic jam.

We stopped at a local convenience store to gas up the vehicles and headed to I-35 – four and a half hours later we reached home.