— From NBC/NJ's Tricia Miller
DES MOINES, IA -- Edwards and Dodd were the only two presidential
candidates to speak to partygoers at a holiday fundraiser for Iowa Gov.
Chet Culver and Lt. Gov. Patty Judge Friday night. Individual attendees
paid $35 and families paid $50 for ribs, beer and a chance to hear the
candidates and several surrogates speak.
Edwards, who had spoken at the DNC fall meeting in Virginia earlier in
the day, addressed the crowd last. He gave a lengthier, more
issues-focused speech than any of the others. He began by expressing
gratitude to hard-working campaign staffers and his relief that Clinton
staffers in Rochester, N.H., were unharmed following the day's hostage
situation. He reminded the crowd of those less fortunate and to
celebrate "diverse faiths" during the holiday season.
After Culver, Dodd spoke, his wife Jacki standing just behind him. He
kept it short, telling a story about his 6-year-old daughter: "Grace
the other day asked her mother and I, she said, 'How is Santa Claus
going to know where I am?' I said, 'We'll take care of that.' So
yesterday in front of our home in Connecticut, we put out a sign. It
just says, 'Dear Santa, we're in Iowa. Grace and Christina.' Now we've
got a sign in front of our house here that says, 'Santa, this is where
we live here in Iowa.'"
Surrogates, who took turns at the mic, were former Texas Gov. Mark
White for Richardson, former Transportation Secretary Federico Pena for
Obama and Valerie Biden Owens, Joe Biden's sister and campaign manager.
Tom McMillan, a former congressman from Maryland, was expected to speak
for Clinton, but canceled when her campaign shut down for the day
following the hostage situation in New Hampshire. Former DNC chair
Terry McAuliffe was also a no-show. In the audience were Iowa Reps.
Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack and Rhode Island Rep. Patrick
Kennedy, a Dodd endorser. The president of the International
Association of Fire Fighters came with members of his union on Dodd's
Faculty Lounge, a local lounge band made up of teachers, provided the
entertainment, and the dance floor was crowded after the speakers
finished. Outside the event, two men held up anti-Dodd signs in the
cold. The fundraiser came the night before each of the Democratic
candidates are expected in Des Moines for the Brown & Black and
Heartland Presidential forums. Equal to the political buzz in the room
was the buzz about an incoming winter storm threatening travel over the