From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- George
McGovern, the former South Dakota senator and presidential candidate,
endorsed Hillary Clinton in Iowa City on Saturday.
"I think that if we can elect her president, she'll be a greater
president even than her brilliant husband," McGovern told the crowd
gathered in a hot barn at the Johnson County Democrats' annual barbeque.
Organizers estimated 1,800 people showed up for the event, calling it
the biggest crowd in the barbeque's history and noting they had to run
out twice for more food.
McGovern talked about the challenges Clinton and her then-boyfriend
Bill Clinton faced when they helped run his organization in Texas
during his 1972 presidential campaign, predicting he would have an
easier time selling her in Iowa than she did selling him in Texas.
He praised Sens. John Edwards and Barack Obama and said he hoped to
live to see America elect a black president, but said, "We have an old
rule of courtesy in the United States: Ladies first."
Clinton thanked McGovern and went on to deliver a stump speech that touched on health care, rebuilding the middle class and investing in clean energy, before ending with a direct appeal to Iowans to support her in the caucuses.
"Take a hard look at my candidacy. Judge me for who I am. See what I stand for and what I have done for 35 years," Clinton told the audience, many of whom sat on bleachers or folding chairs fanning themselves. "Let's start right here in Iowa and go all the way to the White House."
For the most part, her speech prompted cheers and applause from the audience, but when she criticized the Iraq war, one young man shouted, "You voted for it!" a comment that was all but ignored by the candidate and the crowd.
McGovern was a leading opponent of the war in Vietnam. He lost the race for the White House in 1972 to Richard Nixon. He also opposes the Iraq war and has said the United States' presence in the country has increased the threat of terrorism.
Clinton was the last to speak at the event and she stuck around for nearly an hour afterwards, posing for pictures, signing autographs and chatting with supporters and young people there to talk to her about causes like fighting global wamring and ending the genocide in Darfur.
Hours before Clinton and McGovern arrived at the fairgrounds, volunteers stood at the door of the barn housing the stage, passing out handmade signs reading "McGovern Clinton" -- with the "C" in "McGovern" also serving as the "C" in "Clinton" and "Jo Co [Johnson County] loves McGovern." (The "love" was a heart.)
"I believe the experience she has is valuable. She's learned some lessons and I think that she has a good history internationally," said Iowa City resident Linda Greene, after the speech.
As Clinton left, supporters chanted "I-O-W-A, Hillary Clinton all the way."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Edwards, Sen. Chris Dodd and Gov. Bill Richardson also spoke at the event. The actor Forest Whitaker spoke on behalf of Obama and Delaware Atty. Gen. Beau Biden, Sen. Joe Biden's son, spoke on his behalf.