DES MOINES, Iowa – Approximately 13,000 Iowa Democrats descended upon downtown Des Moines to hear from 13 candidates seeking their party’s nomination for President.

The Iowa Democratic Party held their Liberty and Justice Celebration at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday night showcasing their elected officials, federal and state candidates, and presidential candidates.

I originally wanted to video the event, but there wasn’t space on the media risers. So I then planned to live blog the event, but the wi-fi provided and my cell provider’s data plan was too slow to do that as the event started. So I’m providing an informal recap of the event from a conservative perspective instead.

I have to say I felt like a unicorn at the event, I believe I was the only writer there from a conservative outlet and I do appreciate the Iowa Democratic Party’s willingness to give me press credentials. They certainly didn’t need to do that.

Candidate yard signs greeted attendees.

The presidential candidates hosted pre-event rallies downtown and their supporters rallied outside the venue as well. The event reminded of the Republican Party of Iowa’s now defunct Iowa Straw Poll.

Something unique about this event that I have never seen at a Republican event, it was a banquet, but with spectators. Those on the floor paid more to get in and got a meal, and then you had spectators in the arena seats watching the program. The different campaigns provided attendees with tickets and, presumably, those who attended without a ticket from a campaign paid less.

The event started later than expected. We got through the National Anthem without anyone taking a knee (that I saw) and the invocation.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Tony Price encouraged Democrats to take time to get to know candidates and ask a lot of questions. He also encouraged them to “work like hell.”

Price attacked Republicans to the applause of those in attendance. U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and President Donald Trump were favorite targets.

“Let’s make sure we send Steve King out on his rear end,” Price said about the Republican incumbent in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

He later said he wants Democrats to beat Trump and “send his ass back to Russia.”

What? Ok then.

He also said that the IDP employees are now organized under the Teamsters. Ok, props to putting their money where their mouth is on this issue, but I can see this coming back to haunt them down the road.

DNC Chair Tom Perez spoke next and did a great job being a partisan hack because that is what party chairs generally do and typically don’t see their own hypocrisy when they do it.

Perez then said this coming election is the “most important election in our lifetime.”

Until the next election that is, and then that election will be the “most important election in our lifetime.” Republicans say this as well, it’s lame.

The order of candidates who spoke was determined by a random drawing that took place on October 18th. Amazingly, all of the top-tier candidates ended up in the first half of the program.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., spoke first and he also had the most supporters there.

He offered sharp criticism of Trump that played well with the base, but then called for unity.

“I am not here to end the era of Donald Trump. I am here to launch the era of what comes next,” Buttigieg said.

“I am ready to gather up an American majority that is ready for change and tired of division,” he added.

He’s attempting to run in the establishment lane of the party. Some like to call this the “moderate” lane, but he’s not truly moderate. He’s just not as far left as some of the other candidates.

He promotes universal health care, but doesn’t want to take private options away. He promotes “Medicare for All for all who want it.” He also touts gun control “even in red states.”

It was clear to me that Buttigieg has some momentum among Iowa Democrats, and recent polling demonstrates that as well.

Joe Biden

“The very character of America is on the ballot,” Vice President Biden said.

I really, really hope not because how depressing.

“Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be president, and Donald Trump doesn’t want me to be the nominee,” he boasted.

Biden made a point that was echoed throughout the night. Winning wasn’t enough, Democrats had to win big.

“It’s not enough for us to beat him, but we must beat him soundly,” he said. “I will beat him like a drum if I am the nominee.”

Listening to Biden’s speech was like trying to follow his stream of consciousness, it was all over the place. He also had a senior moment mixing up Andrew Johnson for Andrew Jackson, but one expects these kinds of gaffes with him.

Reform health care, but can’t do Medicare for All. Bash Wall Street, uplift the middle class and unions. Beat the NRA, and rejoin the Paris Accords. Call for free community college and student loan debt relief.

He checked off the issues the base cares about.

“The next president is going to face a divided nation and a world in chaos,” Biden said.

If the next President can’t bring the country together “we are in real, real, real trouble,” he stated.

Biden is still a top tier candidate, but there just didn’t seem to be as much enthusiasm for him as other candidates.

But, hey, he’ll beat Trump like a drum, he said again at the end of speech as if we didn’t hear him the first time he said it.

Andrew Yang

The tech entrepreneur from California had a loud following at Wells Fargo Arena and I think they were all sitting behind me.

I have to say Yang was, bar none, my favorite candidate tonight. Not because I agree with everything he says, but he is just so darn likable and he’s talking about things I haven’t heard from other candidates.

He also has a very active social media following. The Yang Gang blew up my Twitter notifications on Friday evening.

He made some solid points about Iowa.

“I love campaigning in Iowa because this is one of the only places where democracy still works as it is intended,” he said.

He also said that he did the math – one Iowans = 1000 Californians. I’m not entirely sure how that works, but ok.

I think he might have a better handle on why Trump won in 2016 than the rest of the field. He pointed out the loss of manufacturing jobs.

“(W)e blasted away 40,000 manufacturing jobs in Iowa and those towns went from blue to red,” Yang said. He then pointed out the rust belt states that saw the similar results.

Yang brought up the 4th industrial revolution. He and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., are the only politicians I’ve heard talk about the coming economic shift and more should.

As expected, he also touted his freedom dividend which I think is insane and not sustainable.

Elizabeth Warren

“Our democracy has been hijacked by the rich and powerful,” the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts said to applause.

She calls for big, structural change and said she has accomplished such change. Though the example she gave did not inspire confidence that she actually has experience doing that as an executive.

Then again, I don’t want big, structural change. No thank you.

“We know how to make government work for the people,” she said. Ironically, she still can’t explain how she pays for her Medicare for All plan.

“If we are going to meet the challenges of our time we need big ideas,” Warren said.

She also said whoever takes on Trump needs to be ready to fight.

Warren is right, but I doubt she’s the candidate to do that.

She seemed flat to me. Ideology and policy aside, I just don’t see what people see in her. She’s not a compelling candidate, in my opinion, and has loads of baggage.

Kamala Harris

“This is the moment we need to fight for the rule of law, our sense of justice, and our very democracy,” the junior U.S. Senator from California said.

Harris saying we need to fight for the rule of law is rich since a number of her proposals are lawless.

She touted her record as a prosecutor and I kept thinking about “Kamala the Cop.” Speaking of beating like a drum, that is what U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, did during a July debate over her criminal justice record and she still hasn’t recovered.

She keeps up the “justice” them. “In 2020, justice is on the ballot,” Harris said.

To prove her point Harris then attached the word “justice” after every campaign issue – economic justice, health care justice, education justice – you get the idea.

“I do believe that when we overcome these injustices, we will unlock the promise of America and the potential of the American people,” she added.

Harris just seems to me to be trying hard to be Obamaesque and cool, but what she really comes off as is desperate.

Tom Steyer

“We know we need a big change, we need to turn the page, but we are not going to be able to do that until we break the corporate stranglehold in Washington, DC,” he said.

This was a theme throughout the evening with several candidates as well.

Here’s Steyer’s campaign: Trump sucks, climate change, term limits, bad corporations, and Trump sucks so let’s impeach him.

If he had supporters there I didn’t see them.

Bernie Sanders

The U.S. Senator from Vermont was the only candidate to use a podium. He didn’t look good.

He said that Trump doesn’t understand the rule of law or the constitution. I agree he doesn’t, but neither does Sanders.

“Democratic Party must become the party of the working class of this country, not of super PACs, not of special interests, not of their lobbyists,” Sanders stated.

Unless it’s money coming from the left. Soros, Planned Parenthood, and unions are just fine in that case.

He goes through his fantasyland, socialist wish list.

“Good policy is good politics,” Sanders said. I’m still waiting for good policy to come from him.

Michael Bennet

He’s another candidate running in the establishment lane and has zero traction in Iowa.

He just fell flat tonight. He notes that Medicare for All is a “big idea,” but there are better ideas.

He wants to overturn Citizens United which is the bogey man of the left.

Julían Castro

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development said that his campaign “has marched to the beat of its own drummer.”

He noted that Democrats can’t just focus on the middle class. “We need to fight for the poor, and those who have the least, those who suffer the most, and that is what this campaign has been doing,” he said.

He noted toward the end of his speech, “I don’t want to make America anything again, with one exception, I want to restore integrity and decency in the Oval Office because it’s been missing.

Castro didn’t have many supporters present.

Amy Klobuchar

The U.S. Senator from Minnesota said she can see Iowa from her house which is a neat trick since she lives near the Twin Cities.

He speech was unremarkable. She just seemed abrasive. She made a comment that annoyed me. “Democrats made the House the people’s house again,” she said.

The U.S. House was the people’s house when Republicans had the majority and it is the people’s house when Democrats have the majority.

Partisan nonsense.

“We can not just change our politics, but change the tone of our politics,” she said.

She should start with the tone of her speeches, she sounds abrasive.

Cory Booker

The U.S. Senator from New Jersey breathed new life into the event. He was the only candidate after the break to animate the crowd, but it took awhile.

The start of his speech was inspirational He is a good storyteller. He called for unity. He talked about loving one another.

Then he shifted to all the ways he believes we are under attack which wasn’t very inspiring.

“This election won’t be defined by what we are against, but what we are for,” Booker said.

I haven’t seen much evidence of that.

John Delaney

“Young people in our country is the first generation of Americans that will not do better than their parents,” the Congressman from Maryland said.

It’s true, and there are a lot of reasons for that.

Delaney is probably the most moderate candidate in the race which is why he is not getting any traction.

The item from his speech that stood out for me was his promise to infest in our infrastructure. He pledged $2 trillion to launch “the largest infrastructure program in the history of this country.”

Another thing that stood out is how the audience thinned out before his speech.

Steve Bullock

The Governor of Montana was the last to go. Which for an event that lasted almost five hours is not a great position to be in. The audience really thinned out.

He’s unique in that he’s a Democrat who won twice in a red state. He noted that in 2016, President Trump won Montana by 20 points, but he won re-election by four points.

He said Democrats “have got to show up” and “fight for everyone”

He then said they don’t need to sacrifice their values.

“I’m a pro-choice, pro-union, progressive populist,” he boasted.

Somehow I doubt he emphasized that or lead with it when he ran for Governor. Had he not moderated himself it’s unlikely he would have won re-election.

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