John Edwards will officially be nominated as John Kerry’s running mate this evening, and he’ll give a speech some Iowans may find familiar. Edwards is expected to touch on themes from his Iowa Caucus campaign. As you may recall, Edwards finished a surprising second in Iowa’s Caucuses, getting about one-third of the vote. In late December, before the Caucuses, Edwards debuted a speech in Des Moines that focused on what he called the “Two Americas” – and this is what he had to say back then: “In George Bush’s two Americas, workers don’t matter; owners matter. The President’s got a new name for this. He calls it the ownership society. Well, after four years of George Bush, we know what the ownership society means, don’t we? It means an America where those who own the most get the most, while those who work the hardest get less and less. We cannot go on as two nations, one favored, the other forgotten.” Rob Tully, a Des Moines attorney and former Iowa Democratic party chairman, flew to Boston yesterday so he can be in the hall tonight for Edwards’ big speech. Tully jumped on the Edwards campaign bandwagon about two-and-a-half years ago. Tully, who met Edwards years ago at a Trial Lawyers meeting, encouraged Edwards to campaign on behalf of Governor Tom Vilsack and Senator Tom Harkin in 2002 when the two Toms were seeking re-election. Back then, Tully says few Iowans knew Edwards, and few who had met him could remember if he was from South or North Carolina. (Edwards was born in South Carolina, but grew up in North Carolina and is a U.S. Senator representing the Tarheel State.) “He’s come a long way and this will be a crowning achievement for what is really a meteoric rise in a political career,” Tully says. “He’s earned every bit of it.” Tully says he’ll enjoy the moment tonight, and then return to Des Moines tomorrow. Tully once ran for a northeast Iowa Congressional seat, but now Tully says he has no interest in moving to D-C to work for Edwards if the Kerry/Edwards ticket wins in November.
Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack spoke last night during prime time at the Democratic National Convention. She held up a campaign trinket she’s kept since the 1956 election.Mrs. Vilsack’s parents took her to a rally, and at age three she was too shy to say much to former President Harry Truman. Truman gave her a pen to get her to shake his hand, and she says she’s kept the pen to this day. On the pen it says, “I stole this pen from Harry Truman.” Mrs. Vilsack says it shows she learned her political values early, from her parents who she says exemplified small-town values. They thought government should give people in need a helping hand, they taught thevalue of hard work, staying out of debt, saving for a rainy day, and accumulating mondey but, as her dad said, “Enough, and not too much.” Mrs. Vilsack says John Kerry shares the small town values she holds dear. She says Iowans feel safer knowing their next president’s made life-and-death decisions under fire, and we’ll be safer at home, work and traveling.
John Kerry’s campaign is in full-court press on national security issues today. Kerry’s status as a Vietnam veteran was a centerpiece of activities here as Kerry sailed in to Navy Pier and was joined by the men who served with him in Vietnam. Gene Thorson of Ames is part of that group of crewmates, and Thorson has campaigned extensively for and with Kerry over the past year. Back in Iowa, a group of Kerry backers stood outside Iowa National Guard headquarters to complain about the Bush Administration’s heavy reliance on part-time soldiers for the war in Iraq. John Norris, a Kerry campaign advisor, says it’s an issue that is gaining Kerry ground in rural America. Norris, who is from Ames, says there is a real question mark in rural Iowans’ and rural Americans’ minds about Iraq, why so many rural residents are serving overseas, and so many rural soldiers are dying. Delaware Senator Joe Biden told Iowa Democrats who’re in Boston at their party’s convention that it’ll be women worried about security who decide the fall election. Biden says he discovered the worry while campaigning for re-election in 2002. Biden says not one woman between the ages of 18 and 50 asked him about health care, education or jobs. Biden says they all asked about safety issues, like “is it o-k to fly?” Biden says the crucial “soccer mom” vote of the 2000 election – representing independent, suburban women – has turned into the “security mom” vote of 2004. Biden is a long-time friend of party nominee John Kerry and is rumored to be among those Kerry would consider naming Secretary of State if Kerry wins in November. Biden ran for president in 1987, but dropped out of the race before the ’88 election after he quoted from a speech given by a British politician without giving credit to the other politician.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will return to Iowa next week. He’ll campaign in Dubuque on Tuesday evening, then strike out for points south, along the Mississippi River on Wednesday. Governor Vilsack says that shows “this is a Mississippi River election” with states up and down the river hanging in the balance. Vilsack says the Bush/Kerry race in Iowa is so close, it could be decided by a handful of votes. Iowa is considered one of a handfull of toss-up states where the presidential race is close, and that’s why Iowans are getting a close-up view of the candidates. President Bush stopped in Cedar Rapids last week. First Lady Laura Bush was in Iowa earlier this month, as was Vice President Dick Cheney. And once Kerry sets foot in Dubuque next Tuesday, it will be his third stop in Iowa in 30 days.
Iowa’s First Couple was a little more relaxed this morning as they met with Iowans who’re in Boston for the Democratic National Convention. Governor Tom Vilsack says he was nervous all day yesterday about his wife’s speech last night on the convention floor. Vilsack says he was more nervous than when his sons were born, as his wife was not only speaking to thousands in the Fleet Center, but millions watching and listening around the country. Vilsack himself became emotional when talking with the few dozen Iowans who were on the convention floor last night. He had to step away from the microphone to compose himself in the middle of his statement. Governor Vilsack says having Iowa friends surrounding and supporting him and his wife at a time of stress was something he’ll never forget. Mrs. Vilsack was advised by a staff member to wear a different outfit last night for her speech, but she chose the bubble-gum pink suit with the white polka dots herself.Mrs. Vilsack has what she calls a “nice, conservative suit,” but she wanted to wear the pink one with the polka dots because she “felt like (she) needed an attitude” after the controversy surrounding her this week. On Monday, the Boston Herald unearthed a column Mrs. Vilsack wrote in favor of making English the official language, a column in which Mrs. Vilsack said she had trouble understanding southerners with a heavy accent and blacks talking with other blacks. In remarks to the Iowa delegation this morning, Mrs. Vilsack says she worried when she and her husband moved to her hometown of Mount Pleasant that he would forever be known as Christie Bell’s husband. But Mrs. Vilsack says her husband ran for Mayor and won, ran for the State Senate and won, ran for Governor twice and won, and she says it made her proud to hear John Kerry say in Sioux City last Saturday that her husband was capable of leading the country.
There are 56 Iowa Delegates to this convention; eight of them are under the age of 30. Party leaders say it’s part of an effort to encourage younger Iowans to vote. Forty-four percent of Iowans between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the last presidential election, but that’s below the participation rate of older Iowans. Nineteen-year-old University of Iowa student Megan Heneke of Spirit Lake hopes to help change that statistic, as she’s just been elected president of Iowa Young Democrats. Heneke says the number of 18- to 29-year-olds who participated in the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses this past January quadrupled when compared to four years ago, and one reason is that kids are concerned about things like the environment, getting an affordable college education and ensuring the safety of friends who’re serving in Iraq. Heneke has helped other candidates run for office, but she plans to be on the ballot herself some day. Twenty-year-old Grinnell College student Grant Woodard grew up in Stratford, Iowa, graduated from Webster City High School and just this week was elected president of National College Democrats. Woodard says just 40 states have local College Democrats chapters, and he hopes to get one chapter in all 50 states by September 1st. Woodard says recent studies have shown young adults are more interested in this election than they have been in the past, and his goal as leader of the campus-movement is to build on that. Woodard has been involved in grassroots organizing before. Woodard helped launch chapters around the country when he was a member of Young Democrats of America during his high school years. His interest in politics led him to help out on the Kerry campaign in Iowa, and Woodard sometimes found himself driving the candidate. The Iowa kids at this convention got to glimpse a star yesterday when actor Ben Affleck paid a visit to the Iowa Delegation. Teenage sisters Chanon and Candace Opstvedt of Story City were still excited an hour after seeing Affleck. “AAAAHHHHH!” the sisters screamed afterwards in a hotel elevator. “He’s, like, just as good looking in person as he is…” said one. “He’s tall,” said the other, interrupting. “Nice, and what can you say about him. He’s good looking, ” said the younger girl. “He encourages young voters and that’s especially important to us,” said the older sister. “And he’s a democrat.” And the sisters’ closing sentiment: “We could go home now and be happy.” Delegates must be 18, and the teenagers who won’t reach that milestone by the November election have participated in a youth caucus in Boston. The Iowa delegation has two teenagers working as pages, doing the running and fetching on the convention floor.…………
A West Des Moines doctor who’s a delegate at the Democratic National Convention is getting some big “snaps” in Boston. Dr. Alan Koslow is on a campaign to get pictures of himself standing beside famous political figures. Despite heightened security around party luminaries, Koslow jumped next to former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter last night to get a picture taken with them. Koslow has a wall in his office with about 30 celebrity snaps, and will probably add about 10 more that he’ll get this week. Koslow says he does it because it makes him feel like he’s a part of the political scene. Koslow supported Howard Dean in the Iowa Caucuses, but now supports John Kerry. Koslow, by the way, also had his picture taken with actor Ben Affleck this morning when the movie star stopped by the Iowa Delegation’s breakfast meeting. Koslow jumped in a frame that included two Iowa women who are celebrating their birthdays today.
Movie star Ben Affleck visited Iowa Democrats at their National Convention in Boston this morning, posing for pictures after a short speech in which he criticized President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, including himself. (See earlier story for more details on Affleck’s appearance) Affleck also said Bush should be spending more money to equip the men and women of the military who’re fighting overseas today. The veterans of past battles are also being highlighted at this convention as John Kerry seeks to emphasize his own status as a Vietnam veteran. Retired General Wesley Clark was Kerry’s political foe earlier this year but is now speaking on Kerry’s behalf, as he did this morning at a breakfast meeting with Iowa Democrats. Clark says it’s a big task to convince Americans they should change their Commander-in-Chief in the middle of a war. Clark says the country needs “a Commander-in-Chief who’s actually been there and heard the bullets fly, seen the flash of the tracers and saved men’s lives in battle.” Clark says Kerry, through his volunteer service in Vietnam, has proven that he can “stand in there and take it” when the going gets rough. This evening First Lady Christie Vilsack is scheduled to speak at the convention at about eight o’clock Iowa time. Mrs.Vilsack says she’ll start out by holding up a sort of talisman she’s had since she was three-years-old. Mrs. Vilsack won’t say what it is; she says she doesn’t want to ruin the surprise.
A retired four-star general spoke to Iowa delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Boston this morning, but it was a movie star who received the most attention.
Former presidential candidate Wesley Clark drew applause from Iowans this morning, but actor Ben Affleck drew louder applause and laughter from his speech. Afterrwards, he was mobbed by Iowa Democrats who snapped picture after picture of the movie star.
“Mr. Affleck, this didn’t happen with Mr. Clark. Why?” Radio Iowa news director O.Kay Henderson asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Affleck said, laughing. “Mr. Clark’s extremely charismatic. I think he’s sexy, to be perfectly honest.”
A little later, amid the mayhem, Affeck leaned back toward Henderson, made eye contact and touched her arm to deliver a line before his exit from the room.
“Maybe people are a little intimidated by the General,” Affleck said. “He’s imposing and seems serious. I don’t think people confer the same kind of gravitas on me.”
‘Can we get a picture?” another Iowan asked.
”Sure, take the picture,” Affleck replied. As you may know, Affleck is from Boston and won an Academy Award for writing the screen play for “Good Will Hunting” with pal Matt Damon. What you may not know is that Affleck has expressed interest in running for office himself some day.
During his speech, Affleck criticized the tax cut President Bush enacted for America’s wealthy, saying as a movie star he could have spared the money to help pay for health care for “everyday Americans,” to buy proper equipment for American soldiers serving overseas and to provide real tax relief for the middle class.
“One of the reasons why I’m here is not to bore you but, in fact, to thank you,” Affleck said to Iowans. “The folks sitting in this room are probably some of the folks most directly responsible for where we are right now and who’s at this convention and I just want to thank you folks in Iowa for making John Kerry the nominee for President of the United States.
“Iowans are known for being politically active, for being mindful of politics and for setting the trend, for leading a trail and you’ve done that.”
The retired four-star general who did run for president this past year lauded Iowans for shaping the campaign debate.
“Never before has this party been so unified, so resolved, so determined to change the leadership in America,” Clark said.
Clark made two trips to Iowa in late 2003, and he said Iowans had steered the campaign debate.
“You saw first,” Clark said. “You expressed first the feeling that something was really wrong with the direction that the United States was being taken in by the Bush Administration. You expressed an outrage. You expressed a determination. You expressed a resolve to change this government, and it carried all the way through the primaries and it’s building and it’s coming across now to the American people.”
Clark was showered with knowing laughter when he misidentified former President Woodrow Wilson as leading the country during World War II. Clark threw his hands up, and grabbed both sides of his head.
“It was a great night last night,” Clark said, laughing, as the crowd hooted and clapped. [Photo by UPI]
Governor Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie, have been in the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention. Governor Vilsack spoke at the convention shortly after it opened late yesterday afternoon. His speech was brief, focusing on the homeland security elements in the party platform. Vilsack’s introduction drew chuckles and sighs from Iowans — he was wrongly introduced as the Governor of Ohio rather than of Iowa.
The other half of Iowa’s First Couple, Christie Vilsack, woke up Monday morning to read about herself in the Boston Herald. The tabloid published a story about a column Mrs. Vilsack wrote in 1994, a column in which she talked about – among other things — how difficult it was to understand some black people when they’re talking to one another.
The Iowa Republican Party has called on Mrs. Vilsack to apologize. Party co-chair Leon Mosley of Waterloo, who is black, called her column “outrageous” and “ignorant.”
Mrs. Vilsack accuses republicans of leaking the story to the newspaper, and she says her comments were taken out of context. Mrs. Vilsack suggests the purpose of the column was not to criticize. Mrs. Vilsack says she was just writing about issues that could unite and divide her hometown of Mount Pleasant, which was undergoing some economic changes. Mrs. Vilsack has written a speech which she’ll deliver in prime time tonight, and she says many of the remarks she made in January while endorsing Kerry will be repeated.
During that speech back in January, Mrs. Vilsack said she decided to back Kerry after seeing him interact with people, and listen to others. “I think Iowans choose not just on policy, but on intangibles,” Mrs. Vilsack said then. Mrs. Vilsack’s speech this evening is to focus on small-town values. Mrs. Vilsack says her remarks will be aimed, in part, at her former students in Mount Pleasant as well as her political mentors, friends and neighbors there. Mrs. Vilsack told her local dentist – while she was sitting in the dentist’s chair last week – that as a former student who had been forced by her to stand up and speak before the class, he could now watch her have to stand up and speak to the entire nation.
A 10-year-old girl from Des Moines was chosen to be in a special children’s chorus that sang last night to open the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Megan Maloney, daughter of Polk County Treasurer Mary Maloney, sang “This Land Is Your Land.” As for her singing experience, Megan Maloney says she sometimes sings in church and around her house. Her mom is proud. Mary Maloney says it’s exciting for a young girl to get such an opportunity.