Tuesday, January 01, 2008

NYE '08: The Bill & Hill Show

"She's the toughest person running."

With her husband and daughter at her side, Hillary Clinton urged supporters at the downtown Capitol Square here to enjoy the New Year and then get back to work Tuesday to boost her support in Iowa's caucuses.

Big Head Todd & The Monsters provided the rock music as supporters waited for the former first Lady to arrive.

While we waited, some senior citizens in the crowd were more concerned about their personal space than the music playing on stage. "They should've had ropes," yelled one senior, who was unhappy that he was getting stepped on by other supporters trying to make their way through the crowd.

I spoke to some Clinton supporters standing in the crowd as we waited, and even they didn't seem completely convinced Hillary would come out on top Thursday night.

"I think she'll either be first or second," said Iowa State Senator Dick Deardon, who endorsed Clinton back in May. "Issue-wise, experience-wise, she's the toughest person running. If you'd asked me that a year ago, I'd a probably said no," Deardon told me.

"It's going to be a barnburner," he added.

Deardon also spoke about the enhanced excitement about the caucuses this year. "We're so damned spoiled and lucky here. We only get to meet the candidates three or four times," he joked. But he said the pressure to endorse came early --- and was enormous.

"One of the staffers said if I held out a little longer, I would've gotten dinner with Bill," Sen. Deardon quipped.

When Hil & Bill finally made it to the stage, accompanied by former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and his wife, Hil's speech was short and to the point. She thanked supporters for their work and hospitality. She gave a short version of why she'd make the best president and then she handed the mic to Bill.

The guy standing next to me whispered, "he's the real reason I'm here." Hillary's husband seemed to be the bigger rock star. After making his pitch for his wife, he eagerly dove into the crowd to shake hands. Not surprisingly, Bill stayed around longer and seemed to enjoy it more. In fact, Hillary was done schmoozing and an aide had to pull Bill away.

One woman's pin put it best: "Miss Bill? Go For Hil'"

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