The chatter on the campaign trail over the weekend was about endorsements. Iowa First Lady Mari Culver is reportedly ready to endorse Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, just as she did in 2004. Congressman Steve King will hold a nine o’clock news conference in Des Moines on Monday to announce his endorsement of one of the Republicans running for the White House.
Former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey endorsed Hillary Clinton on Sunday, as did The Des Moines Register’s editorial board. "It was an important event in this process and I am very grateful that they have zeroed in on the work that needs to be done by the next president, by my vision for our country, my plans for change and my ability to lead," Clinton said during a campaign event in Council Bluffs on Sunday.
Clinton told the crowd she is "pumped up" for the stretch run to January 3rd. "Our campaign is energized. We’re picking up momentum and we’re going all the way to January 3rd with your help," Clinton said.
Kerrey’s endorsement came during that event in Council Bluffs, just across the river from his former home in Nebraska. Kerrey, who called Clinton "his" senator since he now lives in New York, told the crowd Clinton "has what it takes to survive the rigors" of a campaign. "She has been standing up to the extreme wing of the Republican Party for more than 15 years while they tried to tear her down," Kerrey said. "And you know what? She’s still standing."
Like Kerrey, Clinton has argued one of her selling points as a candidate is that there are no secrets lurking about her because she’s been a public figure for decades. During a news conference in Waterloo on Saturday, rival Barack Obama said he hasn’t exactly been "underexposed" to the glare of media scrutiny himself.
"I understand that there’s a history of politics being all about ‘slash and burn’ and taking folks down and what, you know, I recall what the Clintons themselves calling ‘the politics of personal destruction’ which they decried," Obama said. "And you know my suspicion is is that that’s just not where the country’s at right now. They are not interested in politics as a blood sport. They’re interested in governance and solving problems."
On Sunday in Council Bluffs, endorser-of-the-day Bob Kerrey repeatedly uttered the phrase that Clinton has "inspired (his) confidence."
"So the most important question today is, by the way, not whether she inspires me," Kerrey said. "The most important question today is does she inspire your confidence to be the president of the United States of America."
Obama, the candidate who got Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement the first weekend of December, said this weekend that it would be "disengenuous" to pretend he hadn’t tried to get the Des Moines Register’s endorsement, too, but Obama went on to suggest endorsements may not prove to be the key to winning on Caucus Night. "I don’t think it overrides whatever work has been done out in the field, you know, in town hall meetings and precinct captain organizing and all the stuff that involved direct contact with voters," Obama said during a news conference in Waterloo. "I think that ultimately makes more difference."
Yet if you’re keeping score at home, Obama and Clinton now have the same number of state legislators backing their candidacies. Obama pulled even last Monday when State Representative Paul Shomshor of Council Bluffs made his endorsement public. In terms of celebrity endorsements, movie star Kevin Bacon headlined events for John Edwards this weekend.
Edwards, for his part, focused on an economic message. "Our economy is only growing at the top," Edwards told a crowd in Ames. "Almost half of the economic growth over the last 20 years has gone to the top one percent of American families. Middle class families have stagnated over the past few decades."
It’s a theme Edwards first sounded in his 2004 campaign and he’s stressing it in the close of his ’08 effort. "Income inequality among American households grew faster from 2003 to 2005 — that two year period — than it has during any two-year period on record dating all the way back to 1979," Edwards said.
The three leading Democrats in the race for the White House will be campaigning in Iowa Monday, with Edwards and Obama continuing bus tours through the state. Clinton’s campaign has kicked off an effort to have Hillary Clinton, a friend of the candidate, or even Bill Clinton make appearances in each of Iowa’s 99 counties this week.
"The road to the White House for the next president begins here in Iowa. Iowans have an awesome responsibility especially this year because we have to make a decision that will not only help us figure out who will be the next Democratic nominee, that’s important, but even more so — who is ready to be the next president," Clinton said.
Clinton will be using a helicopter to fly to some events in order to cover more ground. By contrast Democratic candidate Joe Biden is traveling around in an SUV.
"The thing I’m counting on is that the election can’t be bought. I mean, look, if I’d told you guys four years ago that Hillary and Barack were going to spend $20 million a piece in Iowa you woul dhave thought I was crazy," Biden told a group of reporters Sunday. "But guess what? There’s a level playing field here in Iowa and I’m going to surprise the heck out of ’em all."
Republican Fred Thompson is set to begin a bus-driving blitz through the state with appearances starting tonight in Dubuque and ending Saturday in central Iowa.