Grilled steak is on the menu but raw politics is likely what will whet the appetites of Iowa Democrats who’ll gather Sunday in a grassy field on the outskirts of Indianola.
Senator Tom Harkin’s 30th annual steak fry fundraiser is this Sunday, featuring the six Democratic presidential candidates who are actively campaigning in Iowa. Nearly 10,000 tickets — at $30 a pop — had been sold for the event by Thursday afternoon.
Harkin organizer Matt Paul says those tickets are being snapped up by the party’s “most loyal” members. “And they’re here not for just some grilled red meat, but probably to hear a little from the stage as well,” Paul says.
In 1991, Harkin was the lone draw for the Harkin steak fry as he staged it in a farm field to announce he was running for president. In other years, rock stars like Sheryl Crow and luminaries in Harkin’s party have agreed to be the event’s headliner.
Back in 2003, over 10,000 gathered in the rain to hear from the Democrats who were running for president as well as from former President Bill Clinton who took the stage as the event’s closer.
Last year, about 3,000 people gathered to get a glimpse of Illinois Senator Barack Obama who offered up his biography and urged the crowd to send Democrats to Congress. “It’s time for everybody here to kick off their bedroom slippers and put on their marching shoes,” Obama said.
A year ago, Harkin described Obama as the “kid” from next door. “To tell you the truth, I really tried to get Bono this weekend,” Harkin told his 2006 steak fry crowd. “I couldn’t get him so I settled for the second-biggest rock star in America today.”
These days, Harkin is not putting that “rock star” label to any single candidate and he may not endorse a Democrat before the Caucuses. “I’m taking a very hands-off, very neutral approach,” Harkin says.
Matt Paul, the key 2007 Harkin steak fry organizer, says this is the first big post-Labor Day event in Iowa. “People now want to really dial in and hear what these candidates have to say,” Paul says.
Candidates like Joe Biden, one of the six who will speak at the steak fry, are hoping they can sway some of those who are just tuning into the campaign. “The vast majority of the people not only in Iowa, but the vast majority of people in all of the early primary states and the nation have not made up their mind yet,” Biden says. “They have not come close to making up their mind.”
Find logistical information about the steak fry on-line at www.tomharkin.com .