DES MOINES, Iowa — Chicken on the plates. 6,600 people in the seats. Three presidential candidates on the stage. Those were just some of what Iowans witnessed at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson dinner Saturday night in Des Moines.
–What a change a week made. Earlier in the week, it looked like the dinner could showcase six presidential candidates. But Vice President Joe Biden later announced he wouldn’t run for president again. And reality set in for two others: former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. They both dropped out of the race.
–Hillary Clinton lavished the most praise on Biden during her remarks.
–Bill Clinton didn’t sit in the room during his wife’s speech. Katy Perry did. Perry and the former president both headlined a rally/free concert outside Hy-Vee Hall before the dinner.
–Bernie Sanders lobbed the most criticism about Clinton during his speech. He (indirectly) ripped on Clinton for her previous stances and subsequent changes on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and marriage equality. Sanders never mentioned Clinton by name.
–Clinton made her most direct shot at Sanders when she called herself “a proud Democrat.” Sanders is a self-described Socialist, although he didn’t mention that on stage.
–Martin O’Malley also didn’t rip Clinton by name. Although he did mention a “weather vane” and that he didn’t pick positions according to the polls.
–Hundreds of Sanders’ supporters left during Clinton’s speech. The presidential candidates spoke in reverse alphabetical order, which meant Clinton went last.
–Clinton got the least t.v. time on the local stations because of the order. The dinner ran behind schedule, as it frequently does. So that meant Clinton hadn’t even taken the stage yet when 10 p.m. newscasts began.
–The three candidates used different styles for the night.
–Sanders talked about his surge in popularity and fundraising, compared himself to President Barack Obama as another candidate who pundits gave little chance to win and also may have had his most aggressive night yet in coming after Clinton.
–Clinton name-checked Iowa dignitaries (The Harkins and the Vilsacks–both of whom endorsed her–the Boswells and Congressman Dave Loebsack), talked at length about gun control legislation and protecting abortion rights and tried to offer the biggest show of force in support with the pre-dinner Katy Perry rally, her husband’s appearance and glow-in-the-dark thunder sticks supporters held during her speech.
–O’Malley focused on his personal biography, praised Iowans and repeated his phrase, “Action, not words,” as he made the case he is someone who gets things done, instead of just talking about it.
–The Questions: 1. Did Clinton convince people that she has real energy and enthusiasm in her campaign and not just big name supporters and organizational prowess? 2. Did Sanders expand his followers and address concerns a Socialist can’t get elected President? 3. Did O’Malley do enough to show he deserves a shot in the race (especially after other lower-tier candidates have already dropped out) and can build support fast?