Joe Biden in Waukee, Iowa, on Friday. | Credit: Lawrence Gamble

Waukee, Iowa, is an example of the relatively new phenomenon of the exurb. Exurbs, as I understand them, are new communities close to urban areas but separated enough that they aren’t considered suburbs. Waukee is probably 10 miles from downtown Des Moines. New homes are springing up in rolling hills and former farmland. In flat areas, typical subdivision rows of nearly identical homes have recently been built; in the hills the homes sit on more land and the architecture is prairie ranch style (if that style actually exists). Until recently Waukee was a small farming community, but you can tell the place is changing with so much new construction. I am headed for an event featuring Joe Biden.

The questions I expressed yesterday about why so much media was present in Mayor Pete’s Ames town hall were addressed today, in part. I learned upon arriving in Waukee that the Biden campaign had just announced a major speech rebuking President Trump. My dumb luck. There are more media people than spectators in this school gym this morning. I have already spotted several political media luminaries (John Heilman, Charlie Cook, E.J. Dionne). More than a dozen video cameras, dozens of laptops at long tables, there isn’t enough room for all the media folks. 

John Heilman is recording a segment right now. Says that Biden will be making a pre-buttal to whatever Donald Trump says tonight [January 31] when he holds a rally at Drake University. This is a preview of the general election in Biden’s mind as Heilman sees it. Biden is hoping to use the fact that Trump spent so much time and energy encouraging the Ukrainians to cook up a fictitious investigation of him and his son to show that Biden is the candidate Trump most fears. As such Biden, is expected to hit hard on this idea as a way to convince Iowa goers to throw their support for him.

A large portion of Democrats just want a candidate who can beat Trump.

We begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, intro by a local volunteer/organizer (young). Much smoother, more compelling story than yesterday’s Mayor Pete volunteer.

Stevie Wonder on the PA. There have been recent articles in local newspapers contrasting the music played by the candidates as intro and outro music. Biden seems to favor R&B.

I read this morning that Biden and Buttigieg are going to concentrate their events in the four days leading up to Monday night in eastern Iowa, where more Democratic voters live. As long as the trial in the Senate continues, Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar are off the field of combat.

Christie Vilsack, wife of the popular former governor, speaks first. She has known the Bidens for many years and speaks highly of their qualities as people.

Vice President Biden enters the middle school gym just after a new campaign video is shown on TV monitors. He begins asking a series of questions regarding presidential character. “Should a president lie, should a president have no regard for certain groups, should a president lack compassion, should a president try to divide Americans”: The list is quite extensive as it details many of the current president’s shortcomings. At the end of all questions, the audience enthusiastically yells “No.” So, Biden’s stump has three main elements: First, his character is superior to Trump’s; second, he accomplished many things in his years in public service, he knows how to get things done, and he will; and finally, “Donald Trump is afraid of me.”

On the specifics he says he will keep and expand Obamacare, reaffirm the Paris Climate Accords and call for an international summit to deal with the climate emergency, and expand common sense gun regulation.

He states with relish, “I can’t wait to debate this man.”

He ends by returning to the character issue and his differences with Trump over the state of our nation. He doesn’t believe the negative view of America that Trump ran on and reiterated in his inaugural address. He believes America is better and more hopeful than that.

He ends by asking everyone in the gym to caucus for him Monday night.

Biden does not mention the impeachment trial or whether he and his son would be willing to be witnesses. 

On to Iowa City

In the afternoon I drove to Iowa City, more than 100 miles to the east of Des Moines on Interstate 80. Temperature in the mid-20s, but the roads were dry. Iowa City is a very attractive college town straddling the Iowa River. The University of Iowa was founded there in the mid-19th century and the campus is full of buildings reflecting the college architecture of different eras. There are neo-classical buildings with columns topping pediments, giving the air of a Greek temple, many late 19th and early 20th century sturdy red brick buildings, and many very new architecturally bold recent additions.

Tonight I have tickets to see Lovett or Leave It on tour, one of the many spin-offs of the Crooked Media empire. Jon Lovett worked for Hilary Clinton back in 2008, then ended up as a speechwriter in the Obama White House. He is funny and whip smart. He is appearing in the Hancher Theater complex on the banks of the Iowa River. It is only three years old, the former Hancher having been wiped out in a flood several years ago, and looks like a spaceship that just landed on Earth.

Jon starts with a monologue he titles “What a Week!” focusing on the Senate impeachment trial. He shows short clips of questions and answers from the trial (including one event that happened just this afternoon) and then comments. He thinks Adam Schiff is doing a great job, and his response to the president’s lawyers veers from “Huh?” to words I cannot repeat in public.

At one point he stops and asks the audience to express, by polite applause, who they support for the caucuses. In this particular room on this night in this town Elizabeth Warren was the clear winner.

Jon’s special guest is Michael Moore, the left-wing political documentarian. They have an interesting discussion as to what it will take to defeat Trump. Moore is a Bernie supporter, but he likes Warren almost as much. The main message: Everyone has to work between now and November and the Democrats must be united regardless of who gets the nomination. This will be an election that is easy to lose and hard to win, but it is winnable. Moore is very popular with the audience.

After the event I have a two-hour drive dodging big rigs on the interstate, but I make it back to my hotel safe and sound.

After teaching high school social studies for 19 years, Lawrence Gamble retired this past June. A Goldwater Republican at age 14 and a Bobby Kennedy Democrat at age 18 who later walked precincts for anti-Vietnam-War candidates, Gamble spent years trying to explain the Iowa caucuses to his American Government students “I am in Iowa to see American democracy up close and personal.” he wrote in his first Caucus Crazy 2020 blog entry.


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