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2004 Joe vs. 2008 Joe

From NBC's Mark Murray
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Four years ago, this reporter covered a longtime Democratic US senator from the Northeast named Joe -- Lieberman -- as he knocked on doors a day or two before the New Hampshire primary. Supporters and aides chanted, "Go, Joe, go" as he moved from house to house.

There was just one catch, though: From memory, the number of TV cameras and press was larger than the Lieberman supporters following their candidate, and they had a hard time finding Lieberman voters who would come to the door.

Today, another longtime Democratic senator from the Northeast named Joe -- Biden --who's running in the middle of the pack of his party's presidential field walked into to a popular downtown brewpub here, and the place was packed with a few hundred supporters. (The campaign later put the number at more than 500.)

"We want Joe!" the crowd chanted as the candidate entered the restaurant. "We want Joe! We want Joe!"

"What a great crowd. God love ya," Biden told the audience. "Good morning, Des Moines. Holy mackerel!" He then joked that if someone had told his grandfather that -- many years later -- his grandson, on New Years Day, would be in a bar packed with people who were all sober, he would have replied that that person was crazy.

Comparing Biden's and Lieberman's crowds isn't entirely fair -- one, after all, is running in the first contest here in Iowa, while the other put all of his chips in the second -- the difference does underscore the enthusiasm that's surrounding all the Democratic candidates running for president, front-runners or not. Indeed, as we said earlier today, someone like Biden is getting Romney-sized crowds.

In his speech, Biden addressed the polls that have Clinton, Edwards, and Obama in the lead. "The first and only poll that counts is Thursday night," he said, before talking about health care, education, global warming, and his plan for Iraq. And then when talking about Pakistan, he made a crack at Clinton's incorrect statement that Pervez Musharraf is on the ballot.

At the end of his speech, Biden remarked how voters and political analysts are boiling down the Democratic race to a contest of change versus experience. "It is so much more than that," he said. "If it is about experience, I win," adding that he's also been involved in plenty of change (citing his work on the Violence Against Women Act). "It is not about change versus experience. It is about action."

And, repeating an argument that Clinton likes to make, Biden said it's important to have a president who's ready from Day One. "I am ready to lead this country," he said.