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As I walked through the entrance gate a twenty-something asks me for my ticket, then sees the press pass, smiles and says, “Sorry,” then motions me through. I’m wondering the same thing.

Down the rabbit hole.

There was an army of volunteers at the entrance from one campaign or another passing out campaign stickers (and still others working the crowd, handing out campaign paraphernalia and getting Iowans to fill out cards). They see my pass and don’t offer me anything.

There’s no mud. People stream in through the entrance. The food lines at the south east are humming with activity. The huge tents with tables are occupied. I see a big crowd to the north east.

Ah. The scheduled photo-op.

The attendance to the event is eventually announced. 12,000. A record. That’s one big mass of humanity.

I have my bag over one shoulder and may camera in hand. The damn press pass keeps twirling in the wind – the chain chokes me. I keep having to untwist it. The t-shirted campaign volunteers handing out “stuff” approach everyone – they see my pass and purposefully avoid me.

I made my way to the food line tents. I take a few photos of people in line. Surprisingly, of the close to 100 photos I took, almost all look decent. I made my way to the large crowd at the photo-op. I find myself in the midst of large organized competing Hillary and Edwards groups. John Edwards is working the fence line. I see one of his national campaign staffers who I’ve been acquainted with over the years. I call out his name. He looks at me over the fence, sees me and smiles. I call out over the crowd, “Do you remember me?” He nods. I continue snapping away with my camera, a full size slr digital job. An event staffer, seeing my press pass tells me, “Follow me.” He grabs a few others inside the crowd with press passes and takes us in tow, escorting us inside the fence to the inner sanctum of the photo-op.

The photographers and video camera people mob John Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards, too. The crowd at the fence line keeps their competing chants going. The Edwards people have more “home made” appearing signs and a guy with a bullhorn.

Jeff Greenfield interviews Edwards – with the crowd at the fence line as a back drop. Other video and still photographers surround them, only leaving an open space for the view of the crowd behind Edwards. A campaign staffer makes sure of that.

Then, somehow the Edwards are gone and another contingent arrives to the photo-op (a group of volunteers grilling steak and chicken in a fenced off area).

Hillary has arrived. She eventually makes her way to the fence line. She’s mobbed by the crowd at the fence line on one side, and the media still photographers and video cameras on the other. I lean over the fence into the crowd with my camera to try and get a better angle. A young women on the line lets loose with loud wolf whistle three inches from my ear. There’s going to be permanent hearing loss. The crowd is large, noisy and boisterous.

At one point Hillary made her way back to the fence line to greet a man in a wheel chair and his attendant. Two young women, oblivious to those around them, push to the fence to get closer to Hillary, pushing the attendant into her charge. The attendant loudly says, “Excuse me.” She repeats herself. The two young women don’t seem to notice.

The mob scenes around Edwards and Hillary make me thankful for the fences.

Because of the photo-op I missed the grand entrance of Obama and his supporters on to the grounds through the main entrance [they made their way from the off site rally].

I made my way back to the public grounds. I see Joe Biden. There are three people around him. I take a few photos.

I spot a swirling crowd. It’s Obama – he’s surrounded by a swarm of media and supporters. I join in and and start taking pictures. The mass of humanity makes its way to the photo op-area. After Obama walks into the fenced area those of us with press passes follow.

Obama is engaged in a lengthy conversation with a grill volunteer. He listens intently.

Joe Biden makes his way into the photo-op area. He and Obama are simultaneously greeting the people in the area. They see each other and shake hands.

I see a couple, Obama supporters by their t-shirts, at the fence. I approach. “Can I ask you a few questions?” “It depends.” [Ah, the press pass.] I ask them where they’re from. “Amana, Iowa.” “Why are you supporting Barack Obama?” “He’s a fresh wind. He’s brilliant. He doesn’t take money from lobbyists. He’s raised $20 million five dollars at a time. His speech at the Democratic National Convention. The country needs change. He’s working for people.” I jot down their comments on a note pad. There’s an inquisitive look from the woman. I explain that I’m a blogger. “Show Me Progress.” She indicates she’s going to look it up. They mention they intend to participate in the caucus. I ask, “Have you done this before?” The indicate that this is the first time they’ll do so.

I look to the main grounds. The crowd has grown to its full size. I make my way back from the photo op.

[Next: the speechifying]