CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — “You know what I got for Christmas?” Barack Obama told a crowd of about 500 people at Newman Catholic High School this morning. “Eight hours sleep. It was outstanding.”
Later in the day, Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife, sounded a similar note at Muscatine, Iowa, gathering. On Christmas night, he said, “Hillary and I got our best night’s sleep in six months.”
Candidates ended a brief holiday break and got back on the campaign trail, in the final sprint in which they are trying to seal the deal with the state’s caucus goers.
To survey some of the action, I drove down from Minneapolis today, and stated with Obama’s morning appearance at the high school gym.
Obama’s crowd clapped, and some cheered, but it was otherwise a more subdued response than I have seen at other events. Obama went into more specific points about what he would do on some of the bread and butter issues like fixing the prescription drug plan and providing tuition tax credits, as well as requiring his cabinet members to hold regular town hall meetings. Noting that other candidates also are calling for “change” — “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” — he cast himself as the most proven to carry it out.
“When you make a decision to caucus, you’ve got to ask yourself, who’s been about change their whole lives?” Obama said. “Who’s made the choices that would indicate their passion for working Americans, their hopes and their dreams?”
And in what was perhaps a reference to Clinton, he said, “If they have been secretive in the past, they will be secretive as president.”
Obama asked who in the crowd was still undecided, and about a dozen or two raised their hands. And he also asked that if any were planning to caucus for another candidate, “we still want to be your second choice.”
Hillary and Bill Clinton made a joint appearance in Mount Pleasant, but because of time constraints I could only make it to the former president’s appearance in Muscatine. About an hour southeast of Cedar Rapids, the small town already has been showered by presidential contenders, and surrogate-in-chief Bill Clinton was making his second appearance in the city at a local high school.
“We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” Clinton said, in making the case for Hillary. “We need to get the show on the road again.”
While he has been criticized for some campaign missteps, he didn’t show any signs of retreating from the hard sell to a room of potential caucusgoers.
He refrained from attacking other candidates, saying, “I’m not against anybody.”
But he said that they would be deciding “which of these candidates is the best candidate to be
the best president on the very first day.”
Speaking to a crowd of about 300 that filled an octogon-shaped auditorium, Clinton went into often minute detail about his wife’s plans for health care, education, the environment and the economy, effortlessly rattling off numbers and figures and stats. A comment about the Blackwater contractors in Iraq came with a comparison costs of private contractors to military servicemen. In another case, he cited Safeway’s efforts at promoting non-smoking among its employees, with its health care costs “going down 15%.”
In fact, his efforts at promoting his wife as an “agent of positive change” continued well beyond the 6:30 p.m. end of the event. As the clock neared 7 p.m., he was still working the rope line, stopping to answer questions, pose for pictures and argue the merits of his wife’s health care plan in great detail. And when one woman asked him about autism, he went into specifics about the disease and vowed to send her more information.
Finally, an aide pulled him away.
Obama in Mason City, where a veteran asks him about health care.