Everyone loves an underdog, and the folks in Council Bluffs are no different.
Today the Collegian crew, after a bit of dallying around town, including a brief stop at Wal-Mart (within which the Council Bluffs Police Department is stationed – no joke) and Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, met up with the fine folks of the Biden campaign.
Their office, located off the beaten path in a mini-mall right next door to Bill Richardson’s campaign office, was far less impressive than Obama’s independent headquarters in downtown Council Bluffs, but the friendly staffers more than made up for their small quarters.
Collegian crew members visited the Biden office twice today – once in the morning to meet up with a former colleague of Erik’s from his UNC days, and then again at 2 p.m. for a special stop by the Senator’s son, Bo, for which a small crowd – not much more than a dozen people – gathered.
The attorney general for the great (yawn) state of Delaware, Beau Biden’s speech was obviously that of a seasoned politician, but it was effective.
While he mentioned one or two campaign issues, mostly the Iraq war and the recent assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the brunt of the younger Biden’s speech focused on comparing his father to “bigger” Democratic candidates. Though he never mentioned them by name, it was clear that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were the candidates in the attorney general’s cross-hairs.
“One is talking about experience,” Biden said, referencing Clinton’s campaign. “Our candidate has five times more experience.”
Playing on Obama’s “Hope” campaign signs, he referenced the Violence Against Women Act, a law written in 1994 by Joe Biden that allocated funding for the investigation of crimes against women and increased the rights of victims, as an example of his father’s “record of changing things that gives people hope.”
In addition to playing off of his father’s opponent’s campaign slogan, he also decried the big two for attempting to buy the vote rather than by connecting with the people.
“Biden, Dodd, and Richardson have been here the most,” he said. “Others have spent the most.”
However, he appealed to the pride of his audience and told them he didn’t think the voters of Iowa could be swayed so easily.
“Iowa is still about the ideas, not the money,” Biden said.
All these remarks served to feed the view of Joe Biden as the underdog in a presidential race dominated by money – and it was very effective.
At first, I was taken aback by how little play the elder Biden’s stances on issues was given in his son’s speech, but after reflecting during the longer-than-expected drive to Iowa City, the brilliance of the speech hit me. This wasn’t a campaign speech meant to sway potentials, this was a motivational speech.
Everyone gathered at that small office had already made up their minds, excluding one attendee who said he was undecided. Beau Biden was merely giving them a pep talk for their next job – ensuring that the 15 percent benchmark needed to be declared a viable candidate by the state’s Democratic candidate was met.
Earlier, volunteers at the campaign had explained that at every precinct, voters gather into “preference groups” in support of each candidates. According to the caucus Web site, voters are given 30 minutes to do this.
What is interesting about this, though, is that groups suspecting they may fall short of the 15 percent have the opportunity to speak with members of other groups, in hope of swaying less certain individuals to their side.
The citizens who attended to the event today, for the most part, were not fence-sitters. They know why they support Biden and didn’t need any convincing.
What they did need was some inspiration.
The caucuses are like a sporting event, and the Biden supporters are, at least right now, like the lovable ragamuffin team with a hardcore homegrown fan base (think the Red Sox before their Series win against the Yankees).
Today, Biden gave them the nobody-expects-us-to-win-but-let’s-show-them-what-we’re-made-of speech. The kind given by a high school football coach before the big game.
Of course, this isn’t a football game. If Biden supporters want their man to survive, they have to fight Hillary and Barack’s $20 million of exposure.
It won’t be easy, but if any fringe candidate can do it, Biden’s the man.