Man, that was crazy... I've been trying to think of a way to describe the frenzied sign wars that took place before the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner... A prison riot? Well, maybe not. How about...do you remember those high school pep rallies where one class tries to out scream the others? That's at least close to what I saw.
When we got to the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel in Cedar Rapids, we noticed the crowds right away. Chris Dodd's folks were set up diagonally across the street. They were dressed in green (have you noticed Dodd seems to frequently wear a green tie?) And they decorated a bus with Dodd's name on it.
John Edwards people set up next to them. I could hear a band from a Dubuque high school warming up behind them (the band followed Edwards into the hotel...yes, it was loud).
Clearly, Hillary Clinton's camp wanted to make an impression... Her supporters easily outnumbered the others as they stood outside the hotel (next to a flatbed truck they brought in).
Inside the hotel hallway, outside the ballroom where the speeches would take place, it was nuts. Clinton's people were screaming as they stood next to Edwards' people. It was loud. It was hot. It was sweaty. It wasn't pretty, especially for the guests as they tried to walk through the crowd on the way to the ballroom to get their dinner.
Now, you may be wondering "what about the other candidates?" I didn't see any Biden or Richardson signs outside the hotel. In the hallway, I didn't see anyone with a Richardson sign. I did see two guys holding Biden signs. I wonder what they thought as they nearly got steamrolled with the Clinton and Edwards mobs passing through.
BTW, was it really necessary to see the Clinton and Dodd signs hanging on the walls in the restroom?
There were a few Obama signs, even though he didn't come. His camp cited a scheduling conflict. Other campaigns took great pleasure in noting that this dinner was announced two weeks before Obama announced he was running.
Other random notes...just how much money and staff does Clinton have that the press received a leaflet with Hall of Fame Dinner Press Games. The games included a crossword puzzle and whatever you call that game where you find hidden words in a grid of letters. If I wasn't so busy running around with the candidates, perhaps, I could have played. But thanks for the thought.
What about the speeches...
Clinton--wasted no time in making sure she said from the start she's working to win the Iowa Caucuses.
Edwards--seemed to call out Clinton (without calling out her name) that this is no time to be "calculating".
Richardson--several times told Congress to de-authorize the war resolution.
Dodd--repeated his pitch that Iowans don't want to be told how to vote by the national pundits.
Biden--drew the biggest ovation from the crowd as he directly (through the tv cameras) addressed President Bush and said the war was his mistake.
One final worthless, meaningless note. I think I counted 13 times Joe Biden said "ladies and gentlemen" during his speech. What does it mean? Probably nothing. I told you it was just a final worthless, meaningless note.