Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Biden Time

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 705

Looks like Joe Biden plans on spending this coming weekend in Iowa. The senator’s public schedule includes stops in Ames and Marshalltown on Friday, Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Des Moines on Saturday, and Allison, Cedar Falls, Hampton and Waverly on Sunday. This is an unusual concentration of time in the state for any candidate so far this year, and signals that Biden is starting to dig in for the long fight and longer odds he must know awaits him here.

Biden’s visit comes in the immediate wake of Barack Obama’s tour of the state last weekend, including the enormous rally at Iowa State, and just a couple of weeks after Hillary Clinton’s much-covered campaign kickoff in Des Moines. In contrast to the Clinton and Obama mega events, Biden’s appearances are decidedly small, more in keeping with the traditional retail-style politics of the Iowa caucuses. The Friday appearances are a town hall at the state veteran’s home, followed by a soup supper hosted by the local county Democratic party organization at a church in Ames. Saturday features breakfast and remarks to the Women for a Stronger America group at a café in Des Moines, lunch with the AFL-CIO in Cedar Rapids (closed to the press – I wonder why?), and a dinner hosted by the local county Democratic party organization in Davenport. Finally, Sunday has Biden at a house party in Cedar Falls, followed by a speech at Wartburg College in Waverly, and wrapping up with an address to the local county Democratic party organization in Hampton.

The senator’s schedule is notable in its focus on party and union groups, signaling that Biden has decided against media-driven events aimed at introducing himself to voters here in favor of churning out yardage in the ground game of organizing and mobilizing that is the essence of campaigning for president in Iowa. This tells me a couple of things: Biden recognizes that he can’t compete with Clinton and Obama for media attention, and also that he thinks their campaigns may have miscalculated in foregoing retail politics for the bright lights, and hopes to capitalize by filling that vacuum. With the latter, I suspect he also hopes to put a few dents into the Edwards campaign, which has been pretty quiet here the last month or so.

I don’t know if any of the foregoing is true, or would be effective if it were true, but Biden’s schedule is good news for me either way, as it means I will at last come face-to-face with a candidate. I’ll be at the café on Saturday to hear Biden speak to the Women for a Stronger America breakfast. I’m mulling a couple of different questions for the candidate, about the war, presidential signing statements, and judicial nominations, and am pretty hopeful that I’ll be able to ask him at least one. Getting an answer can be an entirely different matter, of course, but I’ll do my best!


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