Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Biden and Culver live in Cedar Rapids

Biden and Culver live in Cedar Rapids


11:10 and a beautiful day here in Green Square Park in downtown CR where VP Joe Biden and Governor Chet Culver are due at high noon. There's no official internet on site so I'm doing the tethered blackberry thing (unfortunately, that still means Windows rather than Linux)

At the moment it's just the VIPs and the press in the fenced-off park. A couple blocks of Joe security bubble are closed off. A few VIPs of note already on hand: some legislators, former mayor Kay Halloran, Johnson County's Dick Myers, and Culver consigliere Jim Larew (also of IC).

11:20 and while we wait we have music from a live combo: it's jazzy and bluesy.

This is the third high-level administration visit to the 2nd CD in two months, following President Obama's March Iowa City stop and his April three stop tour of the southern tier. Consensus (MMM aside) is that it's not about Dave Loebsack; instead the focus on the most Democratic district in the state is about base enthusiasm for the top of the state ticket. And enthusiasm is Joe's middle name. (Actually it's Robinette but who's counting.)

Coincidentally, the Loebsack staffers show up as soon as I write that. Once again the congressman is missing all the hometown fun as he flew back to DC last night.

The press corps is in the one small spot of shade; the advance staff must want a good story.

Just on the surface, it was hard to tell just how devastated midtown Cedar Rapids was two summers ago, as I orbited the Vice Presidential Security Bubble a couple times looking for parking. You'd have to know, for example, that the Library was destroyed.

Culver sign

Sec of Ag candidate Francis Thicke is in the house and working the crowd. He's prlanning on keeping up with the weekend farmer's markets (he hit Iowa City last weekend but I was too busy with my own smallest farming) and also has a book tour in mind for post-primary. "I've been doing a lot of radio interviews," he adds.

I tacked my press pass to the beret, and Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt says it gives me a Minnie Pearl look.

The fenced in crowd zone looks half-ish full at 11:54. (I'm betting on a late start) A couple caucus era Biden shirts sighted. The band keeps playing.

Buuuut, I'm wrong. The patriotic start at 12:03 followed by Patty Judge. She starts with multiple height jokes, then moves on: "Despite some bumps in the road, we'ce moved forward." So, she asks, what dos a lieutenant governor do? Sounds like she's on eyes and ears duty as she talks pre-school. "I am very proud about what we have been able to do for the youngsters of this state." (Patty can get away with the folksy word "youngsters.") Moves on to I-JOBS and what it's meant for rebuilding CR. "Chet Culver and I will stand beside you until that job is completed."

"When our governor gets an idea in his head Patty Judge better be ready to execute." Talks about Chet's "genuine kindness and big heard" and says she's a good team member with her "Iowa stubbornness." And two more height jokes.

Biden Judge Culver

12:15 and the announcer announces Mari Chet and Joe. Boy they snuck HIM in. I was just gearing up sor stall ball. They throw Springsteen on the sound system ("The Rising")

Mari Culver handles the introductions, from legislators on down to the Palo City Council level. Chet's on by 12:20. He runs down the roll call of accomplishments in the last four trifecta years. Uses the "Silicon Valley of the Midwest" line about green jobs.

"Let me tell you the truth about the budget: it's been balanced every single day I've been governor and it's smaller than it was when I inherited the job in 2007." And to my annoyance he "announces." Which he did yesterday. And which he did by filing two months ago. But I digress as he talks of flood recovery and infrastructure as priority one. "This will create jobs in every part of Iowa."

Bullet point two here is pre-school. He also talks stem cells for the second time in the speech; is this some sort of code? One could be explicit with that point, that the social conservatives want to roll that back. But he's not going in an attack the opposition direction yet, he's laying out his own case.

"I have no illusions. I know many of our people are still hurting and I get it. The lingering effects of the Bush economy have taken their toll on Iowa." OK, no he's in attack mode. "They believe inaction is leadership." "I say yes, we will help you recover."

"Wise public investment will lead to lasting job creation. Our opponents want to take us back to the failed economic policies of the Bush and Branstad eras." OK, so that's ONE opponent names. But that's it as he pivots into the Joe intro.

Joe's on at 12:33; we'll take an over/under on how long it goes. There's teleprompters; the guv was off a paper script for the Biden intro so it looks like the teleprompters are for Joe. He doffs his jacket, which appears to be official Administration policy.

Joe starts with some self-aimed humor about people being foolish enough to support him at caucus time.


"The President and I have absolute total confidence can turn around the status we inherited" from Bush "because the American people are determined to.. reverse the slide of the past 8 years to lead the world in the 21st century as we did in the 20th."

"In the toughest and darkest days Americans are strongest and most resolute."

"Ive known Chet since he was seven years old, and I can say the certainty that he has the gumption to handle the job at this time."

"This is no time for small bore solutions. The margins cannot be altered enough."

"I trust people whose instincts start in their gut, moves to their heart, and then to their head. These are the ones who don't walk away when things get tough. They actually believe in the grit and courage of ordinary Americans. Chet's that guy. That's why I'm here."

"No state on its own could overcome" the economy, but "With Chet at the helm Iowa is better off than almost any state in the nation." He moves into an Iowa specific part of the stump speech talking about state legislation on renewable energy. "Government is not the answer but it can prime the pump and encourage the private sector."

"45 out of 50 governors, Democrat and Republican, are sitting on their hands. Because of Chet's leadership Iowa is better prepared." Makes a self-pointed joke about "a big (pause) big deal." "I was glad my mother wasn't there to hear it, I was embarrassed, but I guess we're selling t-shirts and making hundreds of thousands of dollars." That'll be in every story as all of press row takes it down, while renewable energy continues.


As we divert to Newton and Maytag Joe goes on point: "What are Republicans FOR? Not a joke. Tell me one affirmative thing the Republican Party is for."

The speech itself is stats heavy and program heavy but I'm remembering so many Biden speeches now, and in particular his ability to vary the voice from quiet and conversational to bold oratory within a couple sentences. A glass breaks and Joe interjects "I didn't do that" without missing a beat.

"It all adds up to a state on the upswing when so many states are down and out. That's no accident, it's because of Governor Chet Culver." (The second sentence gets repeated a few times for emphasis.)

"This guy is Iowa from belt buckle to shoe sole." (Where does that lead the upper half of Chet?) Joe had Chet wading into the water a couple paragraphs back, maybe he only got waist deep? Local touchpoint after local touchpoint gets touched: the Czech museum, the courthouse...

Seems to be wrapping up at 12:57. "Now it's time for you to stand up and fight for Chet Culver." We're quoting John Wayne now: "Tomorrow hopes we've learned something from yesterday." (I wonder if this is an Iowa-specific thing or a standard Biden stump line.)

"Everything about this guy is strong and real. He's inherited his father's brains."

Joe wraps at straight up 1:00. So I count 28 minutes. The traveling press immediately starts packing up as the band plays "I Can See Clearly Now." The handshake scrum looks three or four deep near the locus of Joe activity, but the vP is hard to spot. The Guv is easy to see and who knows if Patty Judge is in there. (Did we mention she's short?)


The band wraps at 1:20 but VP Joe is still shaking every hand he can reach like it's caucus season. Technically, the Berry connection is OK for text but sloooow for uploading photos. Almost the entire crowd is gone, but the couple dozen who've stayed are getting some high quality Joe time. Biden finally departs at 1:30 having shaken hands with the fire fighters, shaken hands with the sound guy, giving the band a thumbs up, and even saying hi to a crazy blogger. (I think he remembers the beret but hard to tell.) Francis Thicke is still on hand chatting with the stragglers. I'll sign off as soon as the photos are ready.

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