The Iowans in Boston for the Democratic National Convention are making their way home now after John Kerry formally accepted the party’s presidential nomination last night. John and Jackie Norris got engaged at the Democratic National Convention in L-A four years ago. They were both in Boston for the Democratic Convention this week — Jackie as a delegate, John as the field director for John Kerry’s national campaign. John says working on Iowa Caucus campaigns for the past 20 years has put him in contact with lots of campaign workers who’ve moved to other parts of the country, and who he is now calling on to work for Kerry. John and his wife ate breakfast together every morning this week, something they haven’t done regularly for quite a while. They’ve been having one of those “commuter marriages,” as John is working at Kerry campaign headquarters in D.C. and Jackie is home in Ames, raising the couple’s 11-month-old twin boys. Jackie sends John email pictures of the boys, and they talk by phone every morning and every night. John says he will come home after the election’s over. But Jackie’s not so sure. Jackie says if John Kerry wins, her husband may be asked to work in D-C and she’s ready to talk about moving there. The couple met, by the way, through Iowa politics, as Jackie came to Iowa to work for Tom Vilsack’s campaign in 1998; she is now a teacher. In 1998, John Norris moved back to Iowa from D-C to run the Iowa Democratic Party, then he worked as Vilsack’s chief of staff. Norris, who is a Red Oak native, has run for office himself, losing to Congressman Tom Latham in the 2002 election, and this past January Norris said he’d like to run for office again someday.
An eastern Iowa couple got singled out for special treatment last night at the Democratic National Convention. Tom and Becky Furlong of Letts, which is in Muscatine County, hosted a John Kerry picnic on their farm last summer. Kerry invited the couple to sit with his family last night in the convention hall. Furlong, like Kerry, is a Vietnam veteran, and endorsed Kerry early in the campaign. Furlong says he was impressed with Kerry becuase he’s “a serious person of substance.” Furlong was on stage, briefly, too, part of a group of farmers who stood as another farmer from Kentucky gave a testimonial on Kerry. Furlong was elected an alternate delegate to the convention, and was sitting in the balcony earlier this week, and didn’t find out ‘til yesterday that he’d be on stage. He says the seat upgrade was “thrilling” especially since he wasn’t sure his wife would even be able to be in the hall for last night’s speech.
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack issued a challenge to the Iowa Democrats who’ve been in Boston at their party’s national convention. Vilsack told ‘em they’re going to have to work harder than they’ve ever worked before to get party nominee John Kerry over the top. “I don’t know about you, but I love a challenge,” Vilsack said during remarks to Iowa delegates. “I love a challenge. I love a challenge.” Delegate Linda Langston of Cedar Rapids took Vilsack’s challenge to heart. She plans to give speeches to civic and community groups when she returns to Iowa as a way to spread the message and the enthusiasm she picked up at the convention. Delegate Frank Sample of Des Moines says he’s ready to write letters, knock on doors and walk in parades, as he says people sometimes don’t pay attention and “sleep walk” through an election. Delegate Tom Powers of Waterloo says he’ll focus on races up and down the ticket. But a lot of the talk at the convention has been about the roughly four percent of Americans who haven’t decided whether to vote for Kerry or for Bush, and party activists are being told to focus on women voters. Delegate Mary Mascher of Iowa City did some brainstorming, and hopes to target voter registration drives in places women frequent, like beauty salons. Mascher wants to put voter registration cards in child care centers, too. Delegate Som Baccom of Des Moines arrived in Iowa as a refugee from Vietnam as a child and she plans to focus on getting legal immigrants to vote. Twenty-five-year-old delegate Elesha Gayman of Davenport plans a Trick or Treat event on Halloween that’ll have a get-out-the-vote theme, and she’ll wear a costume.“Lady Liberty, of course,” she says, laughing. Another 25-year-old Iowa delegate, Lauren Haldeman of Iowa City, plans to play her accordian on the street to attract potential voters to sign voter registration forms. She says it’s worked before. “Either that, or they run away,” she says.
One of the Iowans who’s a delegate to the Democratic National Convention says the convention has for the most part served to unite and rally the party behind John Kerry. Linda Nelson of Council Bluffs says though, there are some who haven’t warmed up to the concept. She says when they went through the roll call to nominate Kerry state-by-state, she says there were still a number of states that had delegates that still pledged their support to Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Nelson says those who favored Kucinich should’ve listened when he spoke to the convention. She says Kucinich gave one of the best speeches to unify the party and put his support behind Kerry. She says those people who supported him weren’t listening. Nelson is the president of the state’s largest teachers union, the Iowa State Education Association.
Former democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean poked a bit of fun at himself this morning when he stepped behind a microphone to speak to Iowans gathered here in Boston. “All I can say is ‘yahoo,’” Dean said, referencing one of the most talked-about moments of the 2004 campaign. In case you missed it last January, Dean gave what has become known as the “I Have A Scream” speech as he tried to rally supporters after his third-place finish in Iowa’s Caucuses. After his speech today, Dean said he “couldn’t resist” letting loose with a “yahoo” in front of Iowans. Dean refused to talk in detail about his campaign’s demise. “I haven’t put a lot of thought into that, and I’m not going to,” he said. “I think we’ve got a job to do, and the job is ahead of us, not behind us. I’ve spent very little time reflecting back on, you know, what didn’t happen and what should have happened. Dean says as a hockey dad who’s seen thousands of games, he realizes there’s no use in thinking much about what he “woulda, coulda, shoulda” have done to win. Dean says he’s doing everything he can to help John Kerry win the election. When asked by a reporter if he would consider running in 2008 if Kerry loses, Dean replied that he was “not going there” – in other words, has is not going to answer that question.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry formally accepts his party’s nomination tonight in Boston, and Iowans helped bring Kerry to this moment. At this time last year, Kerry was behind in the polls and all the buzz was about Howard Dean. But Kerry hired new staff and by the end of December had plowed lots of money and spent lots of time in Iowa. In the days leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, crowds at his events grew larger and larger. “This campaign is moving and it’s moving thanks to all of you,” Kerry told Iowans on the eve of the Caucuses. “It’s moving thanks to the great independence of Iowans who listen, work at this, who struggle hard to make a decision between good candidates and to try to find that person that you believe you can trust.” Then, Kerry scored a surprising victory on Caucus Night that cemented him as the front-runner. “Iowa, I love you,” Kerry said to cheers at a Caucus-night gathering in downtown Des Moines. Now, here in Boston, Kerry is still paying tribute to Iowans as he now seeks to carry the state in November. Tonight, a couple from Muscatine County who volunteered for Kerry’s Caucus campaign will sit with in the section reserved for Kerry’s family and special guests. Tom Furlong is a veteran; his wife, Becky, a school administrator, and they are two of the five people Kerry will single out tonight as people who inspired him during his race for the White House.
Former presidential candidate Howard Dean today offered no apologies for one of the statements he made that many believe cost him votes in Iowa’s Caucuses. Dean says he doesn’t “regret for one second” saying that the U-S is not safer because of Saddam Hussein’s capture, and he says that’s still the case. However, Dean says when Barry Goldwater said he’d rather be right than president, “he didn’t know what he was talking about.” Dean spoke this morning to Iowa Democrats in Boston. Dean began his speech this morning by saying “yahoo,” and told reporters afterwards he was poking fun at himself and his infamous “I Have A Scream” speech the night of the Iowa Caucuses. Hear more about that this afternoon on Radio Iowa.
Earlier this morning, the wife of Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards paid a visit to Iowa Democrats who’re in Boston at their party’s convention. The visit of Elizabeth Edwards signals Iowa’s importance in the fall election. Iowa is among the states the Kerry/Edwards ticket will target next week, as the candidates and their families make a visit to eastern Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mrs Edwards says the candidates and their wives will campaign in Iowa as often as necessary to put Iowa in the Kerry column in November, but she urged the party activists in the room to do their part in turning out the vote, and turning out people for the rallies next week. Mrs. Edwards says she and her husband haven’t gotten much sleep lately, and with 97 days ‘til the election, they’ll wait to catch up on that lost sleep on November 3rd.Edwards finished a surprising second, garnering 32 percent of the vote in Iowa’s Caucuses, propelling him onto the national stage and eventually this bid for the vice presidency. Mrs. Edwards says a reporter asked her how tough the grueling campaign schedule was, and she replied that it wasn’t nearly as tough as the next four years would be if Kerry & Edwards don’t win. Mrs. Edwards and three of the couple’s children joined the Senator on stage last night after Edwards delivered his acceptance speech, and Mrs. Edwards revealed a bit of the behind-the-scenes action.Mrs. Edwards says she made a deal with the two younger kids, Jack and Emma Claire, who like to butt heads. She promised they could sleep in their parents’ beds last night if they behaved. The couple’s older daughter introduced Elizabeth Edwards to the crowd last night. The couple’s oldest son, Wade, died in a traffic accident and the family visited his grave this week before leaving for Boston.
An Iowa delegate at the Democratic National Convention is hoping he made the cut to appear on a national cable t.v. show. If you’ve seen “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, you know it’s a parody of the news, hosted by comedian Jon Stewart – he is cast as the “anchor” of the fake-news show. A couple of comedians who portray reporters on the program interviewed 45-year-old Patrick Johnson of Clinton, Iowa, a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. Johnson decided it was all in good fun, so he answered the fellow’s quirky questions. Johnson says he could tell the guy who was interviewing him was trying to lead him into saying something funny, but Johnson says he “tried to be respectful.” At the end, the two comedians joined to sing a duet of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Johnson says the rendition “wasn’t bad.” Johnson says he watches “The Daily Show” occasionally, so he knows the score and isn’t worried he’ll look silly or stupid.
While the overall election tally in the presidential race of 2000 was razor thin, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by just over 20 percentage points in rural parts of the country. “The encouraging thing is we are running much stronger with rural voters today than we were four years ago,” says John Norris of Ames, a long-time Iowa political operative who ran John Kerry’s Iowa Caucus campaign. He’s now working on Kerry’s nationwide campaign, charting ways to capture more rural votes. Norris says recent polling shows Kerry has gained ground in rural areas, and now trails President Bush by just 9 percentage points. That would mean Kerry has made up over half of the rural ground Gore lost in 2000. Norris, a former aide to Governor Vilsack and Congressman Boswell, says surveys show rural voters are interested in more than a candidates’ stand on price supports. Norris says unfortunately, there aren’t as many full-time farmers living in rural America, and that means rural residents are interested in affordable health care, accessible education and good jobs. He says Kerry has “made a real shift” in how he talks to rural voters. Norris and other Kerry operatives also plan new ways to connect the campaign with voters, especially those in rural areas. They’re holding community meetings, like the more than 70 scheduled around the state tonight that’ll let Kerry backers gather together to watch Kerry deliver his big speech. Norris is telling his field staff to invite people to these and other campaign meetings who aren’t traditionally involved in politics. Norris says it’s just one more way to “bring more people into the dialogue.” Not only are rural votes key in states like Iowa, but swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have huge rural sectors that Norris says could swing the entire state in Kerry’s tally. Norris says the rural vote “could very well prove to be the difference in this election.” Candidate Kerry arrived at this convention by boat yesterday flanked by his Navy crewmates from Vietnam, including Iowan Gene Thorson. The pool reporter on the boat ride says Thorson and another mate were in the back of the boat having a smoke when Kerry went back to call them forward for a picture.