Six of the Democrats who are seeking their party’s presidential nomination spoke to a crowd of 12,000 gathered in a field near Indianola Sunday. It was Senator Tom Harkin’s 30th annual "steak fry" and ticket-holders had to walk through a crowd of chanting young people to get into the event. Dave Hammer of Urbandale showed up as an undecided voter — and planned to leave that way.
"It’s way too early," Hammer said, saying he wanted to hear the candidates but his big hope for the afternoon was "for some good steak." The crowd gathered on a grassy field normally used as a launching pad for Indianola’s hot air balloon races. About two hours before the candidates began speaking, Julie Bulver of Pleasant Hill was helping her family find the best vantage point.
"It’s history. I’m hoping that one of these people will be our future president," she said. "That’s why we brought the kids." Kathy Comito of Des Moines was there to shop for a candidate.
"I’m undecided," she said. "I’m one of the great army of undecided Iowa Democrats." Harkin urged each person in the crowd to go to the Caucuses — and take 10 people with them.
"My friends, we are organized. We’re mobilized. We’re energized," Harkin said. "And in words even George Bush can understand — we are ready to kick some elephant."
New York Senator Hillary Clinton plans to unveil some of the details of her health care reform plan Monday in Des Moines, and she briefly mentioned it during her remarks to the crowd. "We will never have a strong economy or a moral society until we have quality, affordable health care for every American," Clinton said.
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards told the crowd he had come out with a health care plan "months ago." "We need change in the worst kind of way, but we need more than the rhetoric of change," Edwards said. Illinois Senator Barack Obama told the crowd that a lot of years in Washington doesn’t guarantee good judgment and it doesn’t guarantee good character, either.
"Some of the reason you are out here is you’re just sick and tired of George Bush," Obama said. "I think we’ve got a consensus on that fact." New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson told the crowd he’s visited 71 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
"Iowa is going to decide who will be the next president, not the chattering class in Washington D.C.," Richardson said. Delaware Senator Joe Biden said President Bush made it "abundantly clear" last week that he intends to pass the problem of Iraq on to the next president.
"One of us on this stage is going to have to end the war he started, and that is deadly serious," Biden said.
Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd said it was time to end the "era of fear" in America. "The politics of fear is what destroys our country and the other side engages in it every day and we need to fight back," Dodd said. Sunday’s steak fry crowd of 12,000 was larger than the 10,000 who turned out in 2003 to hear from the Democratic party’s presidential candidates and from former President Bill Clinton.