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News Analysis: December 11, 2007

posted on December 11, 2007 at 6:01 PM

Paul Yeager: Right now we're turning to one of our news analysts; that’s Kay Henderson of “Radio Iowa.” Kay, it seems like every time you come on here, we talk politics. So let's start it. Today you were at a John Edwards rally. He's about to bring out some big guns. It appears we are in the season that we're going to see celebrity endorsements or talk show host endorsements.

Henderson: Exactly. Speaking of fever, a lot of people were feverish on Saturday night here in Des Moines when they saw Oprah Winfrey come on stage. There were thousands upon thousands of people. It was like going to a concert at Wells Fargo. There was just a sea of people out there to see Oprah. But I was spending about 45 minutes before the event trying to find people who were there only to see Oprah. I was finding only people there to see Obama. At the very end I ran into a couple of republicans who admitted they were there just to see Oprah.

Yeager: When Obama got in the race, he was considered the rock star candidate. Did it have a rock star feel to that day?  

Henderson: It certainly did. I mean the roar that went up from people when she came on stage and the roar that went up when she introduced him, it was an electric moment for Iowa politics. It’s something that’s going to -- it’s history making here. She started here.

Yeager: It was about -- estimates, 18,000. Can you believe that? Sometimes the campaigns will balloon that a little bit, but did it appear -- [laughter]

Henderson: I'm shocked. I'm shocked that you would suggest that. I can't tell you how many people were there, but there were thousands of people there. And there were definitely more people there than were at the Harkin Steak Fry, which was kind of the high water mark in terms of audience numbers for the year.

Yeager: Despite that event, what do big personalities or big names bring to a campaign?

Henderson: Well, of course, Al Gore did so much more for Howard Dean last time around, endorsing I think about the same time that Oprah’s endorsement was made so public. I don't know that endorsements mean a lot. I think this moment for the Obama campaign is just part of a bigger picture that you’re seeing, whereby he appears to be gathering a little momentum. And by comparison, the Clinton campaign decided at the last minute to bring out 88-year-old Dorothy Rodham, who is Hillary Clinton's mother. She made an appearance. And then the next morning, the morning of Oprah Obama-Rama, Chelsea Clinton made her debut on the campaign trail. So obviously the Clinton people are nervous. Bill Clinton is campaigning in Iowa as you and I sit here chatting. He'll be here on Tuesday. As you mentioned, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins, these Hollywood stars are going to be out and about on behalf of John Edwards. So 24 days between now and the caucuses, expect more of the same.

Yeager: And we'll continue to see bigger names as the campaign goes on. We'll also see big names for republicans. Mike Huckabee, yet another poll has come out where his lead, some would think, oh, it’s going to shrink. It's gone the other way. I mean we've seen a dramatic increase. Is there a reason why we're seeing him bump up?

Henderson: Well, I think people are settling on a candidate. You know, the closer and closer you get to the caucuses, people settle down and say who is my choice, and people are choosing Mike Huckabee. I think the most interesting thing that's happened in the past week is that Huckabee is being analyzed in a way that he wasn’t heretofore, because he is now a legitimate candidate for the Republican nomination and, therefore, we're seeing things that Mike Huckabee said in 1992 about AIDS victims or things that he said in the late '80s on a very controversial clemency release of a prisoner under his watch. So those kinds of items are going to just keep coming out drip by drip by drip as his rivals and others, you know, take him -- make him appear -- try to chip away at the old --

Yeager: Well, he's not been a front runner. He's not had front-runner money up until this point.

Henderson: And he still doesn't.

Yeager: And he still doesn't. But normally you would have research that would tell you some of these things. Do you think he's going to be surprised by anything because maybe he hasn't had the work on his own campaign, he's going to get it dripped out by a rival campaign?

Henderson: You know, one should not be surprised if it's your life that's under the microscope. The test of his metal will be how he handles this thing. There's people who look at his Fox News Sunday appearance and his discussion of why he said what he said about people who have aids, that they should be isolated if they have contracted the illness. He said that in 1992. I mean he’s going to have to assemble around him a staff of people of quick responses to these things. It doesn't appear that he has that right now but, you know, in the next 24 hours he maybe acquire it.

Yeager: He may get more staffers in there. You talk about quick responses. I need a quick response from you on this one. What is the holiday -- what is the Christmas holiday going to do to the caucus? You talk about days 24 before we have to go over the Christmas holiday. Will it soften people jabbing at one another?

Henderson: There will be a lot of, you know, good will toward men, but then men and women in the fray will kick it up a notch between Christmas and New Year's.

Tags: Iowa news Republicans