If there was any doubt Iowa’s Caucuses are a make or break event for a presidential campaign, this weekend should have erased that notion. Iowa was the first stop for Oprah Winfrey, the queen of daytime TV, as she a very public pitch for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"We must respond to the pressures and the fortunes of history when the moment strikes and Iowa, I believe that moment is now," Winfrey said.
Winfrey headlined rallies in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids — and the Obama campaign claimed 28,000 people attended the two events. "I am not here to tell you what to think," Winfrey said. "I am here to ask you to think, seriously."
Without mentioning Obama’s competitors by name, Winfrey questioned those who stress their longtime D.C. experience and fault Obama for his lack of time in Washington. "The amount of time you’ve spent in Washington means nothing unless you’re accountable for the judgments you made with the time you had," Winfrey said. She went on to praise Obama for being against the war in Iraq "from the beginning."
Some in the crowd were there just to see Oprah. But Joy Esposito of Des Moines has agreed to be a precinct captain for Obama on Caucus night, and she was there because of him. "We just think it’s a great benefit if she can bring people here and if they’re undecided or leaning and she gets them in the door and they get to be really inspired by Barack Obama’s speech, then that’s great," Esposito said.
Taylor Bryant of Grimes, another Obama campaign volunteer, brought her mother and her aunt to see Oprah. "It’s pretty cool. I’m excited to be a part of this," Bryant said. "I’m missing my little brother’s birthday party to be here."
The majority of people in the audience were women, but there were men, too, like Tom Wall of Kimballtown. "I came to see Barack Obama and get involved in the political process and no, I didn’t come because she told me I had to," Wall said. The "she" would be Lynette Wall, his wife. The couple drove an hour and a half to get to Des Moines Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday morning, Chelsea Clinton made her first appearance on the campaign trail in Iowa for her mother. They began their day at a Des Moines deli and a woman in the crowd told Miss Clinton she didn’t need to worry about her mother’s chances here. "We’re going to do everything we can for your mother," the woman told Chelsea Clinton. "We are going to work as hard as we can, so you go back to New York and your work and she’ll be in good shape."
Hillary Clinton was flanked by her daughter and her 88-year-old mother at events in three Iowa towns on Saturday. Bill Clinton is due in Iowa Monday to speak at campus rallies in Ames, Grinnell and Iowa City. Obama campaigned on those campuses last week.