IOWA CITY, Iowa – Five Democratic presidential hopefuls dined on barbecue Saturday and delivered their stump speeches to about 1,800 party faithful packed into a swine barn at the Johnson County fairgrounds.
Hoping to attract votes in this Democrat-rich part of Iowa were Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich. Representatives for Barack Obama and Joe Biden also addressed the crowd of hundreds, who swatted at flies and fanned themselves on an unseasonably hot October evening.
Edwards was escorted to the barn doors with supporters chanting, "We love Elizabeth, we love John, we want to see you on the White House lawn." The former North Carolina senator heaped criticism on Clinton, the front-runner in many polls. He blasted her for recently voting in favor of a Senate resolution to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
"I differ with her about that and I wonder, if George Bush goes to war, six months later, six months from now, are we going to hear again, 'If only I'd known then what I know now?"' he said, drawing comparisons to Iraq. "How many times do we have to be taught this lesson?"
Richardson, who helped sing "Happy Birthday" to one supporter when he arrived at the fairgrounds, said the war in Iraq must end to curb the divisiveness plaguing the U.S.
"Get all our troops out, leave no troops behind, I will not leave 75,000 behind," the New Mexico governor said, referencing some estimates of a peacekeeping force needed in Iraq if the U.S. makes a quick exit.
Kucinich, who was making a rare campaign appearance in Iowa, also hammered home an anti-war message.
"This campaign is about calling forth the courage of the American people to reject not just the occupation in Iraq, to reject not just a potential attack on Iran, but to reject war as an instrument of policy," the Ohio congressman said. "It is time that we reclaimed our nation."
Dodd appealed to Iowans' sense of responsibility. "I don't think you're terribly impressed by celebrity or money," he said. "But what you are impressed with are people who have ideas, have courage, have principles and values and (know) how to win elections and stand up and how to get a job done for America."
Biden's son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, spoke on his father's behalf, while Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker appeared for Barack Obama, who was in South Carolina Saturday evening.
"He recognizes how the choices made by the current administration have jeopardized our position in the world, how these choices have affected our sense of national pride, our livelihood and the safety of ourselves and of our children," Whitaker said of Obama.
When asked what he thought about having surrogates speak in place of some candidates, Richardson reminded reporters that passing up campaign events for fundraisers isn't a good tactic. "One, Iowa is first," he said. "Secondly, money doesn't buy you love."