The liveblogger is wearing the beret on behalf of the Register today.
10:53 and hello from the UIowa Fieldhouse where I'm deep in press row awaiting the President.
The advance team said No Wifi for this event but I've geeked my way through using my Blackberry. Unfortunately this means I'm having to use Windows (most of you don't care but my regular readers know that I'm a proud Linux geek and having to use Windows irks me to no end.)
If you're from out of state and reading this, the first thing you need to know is that Iowa City is the most Obama friendly place in Iowa. This paper's longtime writer David Yepsen dubbed us "the People's Republic of Johnson County," and we locals adopted the nickname as a point of pride. Johnson County was over 50% for Obama on caucus night 2008, and a whopping 70% Obama that November; both were tops in the state. So... the President is on friendly turf.
11:09 and at least some of the legislators have the day off. Senators Bob Dvorsky and Jack Hatch are on hand as a group of Honorables are ushered in; also, locals: Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek.
11:18 Local party activist Paul Deaton of Solon walks in wearing stickers for all three Democratic Senate candidates. He says Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen are both here in person, and he's not sure re: Roxanne Conlin. Paul spent about 45 minutes in line, and also saw 5th CD candidate Matt Campbell in line.
The local and state press (including our own Kathie Obradovich) are in the back of the press row. University PR staff are being very accomodating but warned us not to touch the lunches; those are for the national press.
The volunteer crew got in just before the local press and for the most part they're familiar faces from local campaigns. "We're packing them in," says county Democratic chair Denns Roseman. Most of the seating is on the floor, standing room. There's a few bleachers along the side and one set behind where the President will speak, presumably saved for the most V.I. of the P's. As a local politics guy I always wonder who those backdrop people are and how they're picked; today I'll see.
11:49 and Terri Loebsack arrives. "Is Dave gonna make it or does he have to work?" "He's gotta work." The Senate voted on the fix-it bill in the wee hours; now the House is on the case.
Straight up noon and the backdrop crowd is mostly in place; a front row is empty presumably for the V.V.I.P's. The group looks carefully diverse and looks like Real People as opposed to dignitaries; the only politico I recognize is former Cedar Rapids mayor Kay Halloran. A handful are wearing campaign grea but most are dressed nice-casual.
A small vocal group of a half-dozen or so young men starts singing and the hubbub simmers down a notch or so.
More of the local dignitaries are showing up at 12:12 and asking me what a "red ticket" means. I tell them I'm wearing my press hat not my party hat so I have no idea. Eventually they gather into one line so that must be the spot. County Attorney Janey Lyness says she's here straight from filing her nomination papers for a second term: I tell her I'll mention it but it's not our top story. Also on hand is Supervisor Janelle Rettig. The choir keeps singing, a South Africanized version of "Stand By Me."
Local press row is checking out YouTubes of outdoor protesters lined up on an overpass.
"I gave away a stack of flyers like this," Senate candidate Tom Fiegen tells me at 12:30, lolding one hand a foot above the other. Fiegen worked the lline then strolled in with a civilian ticket; apparantly Bob Krause didn't even score that much. Fiegen offers his apologies to me for missing our county convention; we were his last stop and we argued less than usual and got done early.
The backdrop crowd leads a chant but the ambient acoustics in here aren't great. It's not "Fired Up Ready To Go" but Fired Up is in there somewhere. 28 minutes till The Prez is scheduled. Doors are officially closed. Things all of a sudde feel more serious.
Now we get a full Fired Up Ready To Go and an O-BA-MA. If you're at home you'll likely get a better view that you will here. Other than Red Ticket type exceptions, most seating is first come first served, and there's no Jumbotron style big screen. Ticket requests were over 16,000 so they probably could have filled Carver-Hawkeye (which Bill Clinton did in Feb. 1996).
Invocation underway at 12:44. Secetary of State Mike Mauro just arrived via press row and worked his way forward. Also seen: local bar owner Mike Porter, leading opponent of Iowa City's current move toward a 21 bar admision age. (He's noticible mostly because he's very tall, so he at least should get a good look at the Prez.)
Patriotic festivites done at 12:48 as I put the beret back on.
The Actual Speech has been in the hands of us press for some time now; I'm more of the color commentary guy here so I'll throw in the key lines at the right time. Mostly, I'm trying to let you know what this is LIKE.
Here come the VVIPs, a mix of real people (the type who get mentioned in speeches) and politicos. Attorney General Tom Miller brings up the back of the line.
1:01 and Sebelius is doing the intro. Mentions her "beloved Jayhawks" and we get big applause from UNI fans. She gives a shoutout to Culver and Vilsack, who I haven't actually seen.
Is she stretching for time? A little more UNI vs. KU than we need.
1:04 and now moving on to actual health care and the naysayers who said this fight was too hard. "You all refused to buy that. You believed."
Audio is a little echo-ey buy we can understand what she's saying. Crowd is loud but not blow the roof off loud. It feels a little campaign-y but not rally music campaign-y. "Obama kept the promised he made in Iowa almost three years ago. I've never seen a president fight harder for something he believed in."
A loud booing sound goes up, back here we can't tell what that was, maybe it was the intended response Sebelius was seeking. She drops a Yes We Can and here he is.
"HELLO IOWA! It feels good to be back in Iowa. I'm gonna take my jacket off in Iowa..." The crowd gets ear-splitting load as Obama walks in. 1:12 as the niceties wrap up, with shoutouts to politicos already named and a couple more (Sally Mason, mayor Matt Hayek, Mike Fitzgerald.) The UNI shoutout was in the prepared text.
He's a bit hard to hear back in local press row.
Someone shouts out something inaudible; O chuckles and keeps going. Absolutely no idea.
"This was the state that first believed..." big applause. "This was the place where change began."
"On Tuesday, after a year of debate and a century of trying, after so many of you shared your stories and your heartaches and your hopes, that promise was finally fulfilled. And today, health insurance reform is the law of the land."
A YES WE CAN chant goes up and gets a big smile and a "yes we did, yes we did."
"Just like the campaign that led us here, this historic change did not begin in Washington. It began in places like Iowa City."
"You knew this wasn’t about the fortunes of any one party -- this was about the future of our country. And today, because of what you did, that future looks stronger and more hopeful than it has in some time." Big applause line.
Still some semi-random shouting that we can't make out.
Obama plays the doom and gloom of the tea partiers for laughs. Relased text:
Over the last year, there’s been a lot of misinformation spread about health care reform. There has been plenty of fear-mongering and overheated rhetoric. And if you turn on the news, you’ll see that those same folks are still shouting about how the world will end because we passed this bill. This is not an exaggeration. Leaders of the Republican Party have actually been calling the passage of this bill “Armageddon.”
He played that light, not heavy, and was interrupted by laughs a couple times. Ad libbed: "It wasn't. Turned out to be a pretty nice day."
Local shout out:
Meanwhile, there are a set of reforms that will take effect this year. This year, millions of small business owners will be eligible for tax credits that will help them cover the cost of insurance for their employees. And let me talk about what this means for a business like your own Prairie Lights Bookstore downtown. (Applause) This is a small business that’s been offering coverage to their full-time employees for the last twenty years. Last year their premiums went up 35%, which made it a lot harder for them to offer the same coverage. On Tuesday, I was joined at the bill signing by Ryan Smith, who runs a small business with five employees. His premiums are going up too, and he’s worried he’ll have to stop offering health insurance to his workers.
What, Mr. Prez, no shoutout for the Hamburg Inn?
Policy wise, Obama plays up the immediate impact:
This year, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage when they get sick; or place lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care they can receive.
This year, all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care.
For all the students here today, starting this year, if you don’t have insurance, all new plans and some current ones will allow you to stay on your parents’ insurance policy until you’re 26 years old. Because as you start your lives and your careers, the last thing you should worry about is whether you’ll go broke just because you get sick.
Big applause at the student references. (That stay on the folks policy till 26 will help win over "indestructible" young folks who worry about having to buy into the insurance pool.)
Shouter: "What about the (??)"
Obama: "That's not in there." "Why Not?" "Because we couldn't get it through congress."
Obama: "This legislation isn't perfect, as this young man just said, but it's a historic first step." Crowd sides with the Prez.
Paramedics wheel a fainter out via press row. Locals still don't know what shouter said.
On to the politics. Prepared text:
If these Congressmen in Washington want to come here to Iowa and tell small business owners that they plan to take away their tax credits and essentially raise their taxes, be my guest. If they want to look Lauren Gallagher in the eye and tell her they plan to take away her father’s health insurance, that’s their right. If they want to make Darlyne Neff pay more money for her check-ups and her mammograms, they can run on that platform. If they want to have that fight, I welcome that fight. Because I don’t believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat. We’ve been there already and we’re not going back. This country is ready to move forward.
He adlibs "If this young man out there thinks this is such a bad bill, he can run against it." Still know one can figure it out but in any case Obama handled it well. (and a presidential shoutout to Iowa City's own Darlyne Neff)
Winding down at 1:37.
let us remember the promise we have fulfilled, the people who fulfilled it, and the generations before us who made it possible; and let us respond with the creed that continues to define the character of this country we love: Yes, we can.
Thank you, Iowa, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Speech proper done at 1:38, he ends in full campaign mode as the music rolls up for the first time. Looks like instead of Q&A it's a handshake scrum.
Handfuls are starting to trickle out at 1:43 as that old Team Obama Greatest Hit, U2's "Beautiful Day", plays. In thie end, this is pretty campaigny after all, except for the lack of the signs.
The apparant shouters have eagerly identified themselves for the TV crews, they're public option die hards which explains the president's "didn't have the votes" response. Theyre in the midst of a big camera scrum as the music shifts to another campaign standard, Springsteen's "The Rising" (although that was one of Edwards' greatest hits, he actually built a speech around it.) One of the shouters, nevertheless, was wearing an Obama shirt; the other had a peace sign on hers.
"The president's doing really well," says Bob Dvorsky, who got some face time. "He's really excited about this" says Pauline Taylor, an Iowa City nurse and union leader who was featured in Obama's May 2007 speech.
Meanwhile talk turns to the ongoing campaign. Linn County Dems chair Diane Hoffman is trying to pt together a Hall of Fame dinner but having trouble getting a keynote speaker. "The governor needs to get out here and campaign."
All's pretty quiet here at 2:12. Nobody left but us instate media stragglers and the cleanup crew. We'll sing off. Next stop is the Mill, where the Governor and Lt Guv are slated to speak to the local faithful.