Democrat-logoOn Monday, organizers of the Iowa Democratic Party’s big Saturday fundraiser thought they might have as many as six presidential candidates at the event. But with Joe Biden’s decision not to run and with Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee exiting the race this week, there will be just three: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.

Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners of the past have signaled the upswing of Al Gore’s campaign in 1999, of John Kerry’s in 2003 and Barack Obama’s in 2007.

“We see this as a huge opportunity,” Clinton’s 2016 national campaign manager Robby Mook told Radio Iowa today. “We know that when Hillary gets out there and talks to voters about her vision for this country…that voters get excited.”

Clinton comes into the event with polls showing her gaining support in Iowa after last week’s debate, plus yesterday, for more than 10 hours, Clinton testified before a congressional panel assembled to investigate the 2012 attacks in Benghazi.

“What we saw yesterday and what I think you’re going to see at the JJ Dinner is that when Hillary Clinton speaks for herself, when the American people hear her, that they see their next president talking to them,” Mook said.

The smell of paint hangs in the air at Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Des Moines, as large, hand-painted signs hang to dry on a clothesline strung through the office, the work product of a Thursday evening sign-making session. A few miles away, at the campaign headquarters for Sanders, volunteers were making signs this morning. Yvonne Welshhons of Ankeny is sticking to basic lettering, because she’s not confident in her magic marker skills.

“Pretty poor,” she said late this morning, laughing. “But it’s for a good cause.”

Welshhons has attended these annual events in the past and understands tomorrow night will be a big moment for Sanders.

“I’m expecting people to be really be surprised and see how authentic Bernie is,” she said.

Jeri Sanburn of Mitchellville is a retired teacher who made a “Nanas for Bernie” poster this morning.

“I’ve got my IPERS. I’ve got my Social Security. I’m going to be O.K., but I’m worried about my kids,” Sanburn said. “I think Bernie has the right policy.”

Sanburn next worked on a poster depicting Sanders as Superman.

The three Democratic presidential candidates are each holding Saturday afternoon rallies for supporters, before tomorrow night’s big event. Clinton’s will feature pop star Katy Perry. The Sanders rally will feature performances from a collection of musicians who’ve endorsed him. O’Malley plans to sing and play the guitar himself at his rally.

On Halloween, the Iowa Republican Party plans to host a day-long event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds featuring nine of the GOP presidential candidates.  Four of them will also be in northwest Iowa next weekend, to go hunting with Congressman Steve King.