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Democrats Make Last Stump Before Iowa Caucus

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Long before this day, plenty of Americans effectively cast their votes in the presidential campaign. They did it with money. They did it with endorsements. They did it through polls. The field is already narrower than it was, but this is the time when voters formally begin to choose.

MONTAGNE: And it starts with the Iowa caucuses. In a moment, we'll report on the Republican race. We begin with a tight race on the Democratic side, where many Iowans are still considering their options.

NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE: The candidates spent much of yesterday fanned out across Iowa, but then some made their way to the state capital of Des Moines to hold last big rallies. John Edwards brought rocker John Mellencamp with him to a ballroom in Des Moines. Mellencamp was revving up the crowd by doing some sing-along.

(Soundbite of song, "Our Country")

Mr. JOHN MELLENCAMP (Singer): (Singing) This is our country.

GREENE: Then Edwards told the crowds they have work to do.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Democratic Senator, North Carolina; Presidential Candidate): Go to the caucus. Stand up. Speak out. Change this country. Show what you're made of.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

GREENE: It sounded like a room full of hardcore supporters. But Kathleen Mumborg(ph) said she's still thinking about who to caucus for. She said it will be a game-time decision.

Ms. KATHLEEN MUMBORG: And I've changed three times. I started with Obama. I went to Hillary. I went then back - wait - to Edwards. And now I'm - I don't know where I'm at, but I think John Edwards is going to surprise people tomorrow. I really do.

GREENE: Not far away, Barack Obama landed in town at a high school. A long day of campaigning had taken a toll on his voice.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): To all the young people out here today, the cynics say that you won't turn out, that despite all the sweat and tears that you have put into this campaign, that you will somehow forget to show up.

GREENE: Obama returned to a signature theme that he'll do well if voters believe in themselves and believe they're part of a movement.

Sen. OBAMA: You have the chance to cast a new vision, to set a new direction to this country. Tomorrow, you have the chance to say, yes, we can.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Sen. OBAMA: I believe you will.

GREENE: Ron Faudness(ph) was listening. He said he is planning tonight to start off supporting another Democratic candidate - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. But if Richardson doesn't have the support to stay alive at his caucus, he'll switch to Obama. He said he likes Obama's message.

Mr. RON FAUDNESS: I believe in his perspective on the world and I support, you know, the ideas that he stands for. The reason I would think of Richardson first is I just look at him as having a model resume for a presidential candidate.

GREENE: And across town at the Iowa Historical Society, a family Americans have known for some time walked out to greet the crowd.

President BILL CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

GREENE: Bill Clinton came on stage with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. The former president introduced his wife this way.

Pres. CLINTON: What you really care about in public service and the only thing that matters is whether people are better off when you quit than when you started and whether our children and grandchildren have a better future. If that's your test, this is your candidate - a great president.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

GREENE: Clinton said she's proven she can bring change by setting goals and bringing people together behind her.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Holding public office is a public trust. And you're supposed to get up every day and not think about how to gratify your own ego, but how to solve the problems that the people you represent have to make their lives better.

GREENE: I asked Barbara Rife(ph) if Clinton's won her over.

Ms. BARBARA RIFE: You know, I'm not sure. I think so though, because I like her attitudes and her ideas on education, being a retired teacher.

GREENE: But Rife said she has considered Democratic candidate Joe Biden. In fact, she's looked at the whole Democratic field and said she'll be happy if any of them wins.

Ms. RIFE: It's funny. I was just - my husband and I were just talking about it the other night. I think I could vote for any one of them.

GREENE: She's more certain about just wanting the caucuses to be over.

Ms. RIFE: It's time. It's time. You know, for Christmas, my son-in-law, the techie, he gave us TiVo and I've been whizzing right through those commercials because I'm tired of them. It's finally here and I'm glad it's here.

GREENE: David Greene, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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