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Democrat presidential candidates head to Iowa

BY REBECCA MORIN | JULY 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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All of the Democratic presidential-nomination candidates will all be found in one room for the first time in Iowa.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Sen. and Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb will be the focus of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Celebration.

Last year, the dinner honored former Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who served as senator for 30 years. Approximately 1,200 tickets have been sold for the event this year.

“They’re going to be all over Iowa,” said Andy McGuire, the head of the Iowa Democratic Party, in an interview with The Daily Iowan in June. “There is a good number [of candidates] to get [the Democratic] message out.”

Prior to the dinner, candidates will try to make their most of their Iowa visits.

Christopher Larimer, a University of Northern Iowa associate professor of political science, said candidates might as well maximize their time when they visit Iowa. 

Clinton will hosting a pre-party for the Iowa Hall of Fame celebration at the Veterans Memorial Building, 50 Second Ave. Bridge, just hours before the dinner at 3:45 p.m.

Sanders is also taking the opportunity of being back in the state to hold a press conference for veterans.

The event, which will also be held at the Veterans Memorial Building at 2:30 p.m., will focus on veterans’ issues. Sanders was the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and is still on the committee.

Iowa’s two leading candidates aren’t the only ones to take advantage of their visits.

O’Malley has events set up today, including a roundtable discussion on immigration at Las Americas-Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines. Following that, he will host a meet-and-greet at Hotel Wapello in Ottumwa.

Prior to the Hall of Fame dinner, O’Malley will do a series of meet-and-greets in Burlington and Washington, Iowa. He will also host a meet-and-greet at White Star Ale House in Cedar Rapids.

Chafee held a meet-and-greet Wednesday at Dos Rios restaurant in Des Moines. Webb did not have any events announced prior to the Hall of Fame celebration.

The events will allow candidates to keep discussions going about their campaign, Larimer said.

This is important because, Larimer said, it’s going to be tough for less-popular candidates to raise their profile at the dinner to make enough movement in polls.

The case might be a little different for Sanders, however.

Larimer said Sanders will benefit from the event and it’s a chance for Sanders and Clinton to pick up a few more supporters.

“I think it is unique to get all five together where there is a clear separation,” Larimer said. “There is a clear No. 1; there is a clear No. 2, and there is a clear everybody else. It will be kind of interesting sort of the optics of it and how they react and interact with each other.

Bret Nilles, the head of the Linn County Democrats, said he looks forward to the evening because it is an opportunity to get all the candidates and compare them, as well as seeing how they come across.

“That will be the key thing I’m looking to in the evening,” he said. “Who comes across and gets the best response and how the audience perceives them when they start and how they finish.”


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