AMES, Iowa — It was a packed house that offered several standing ovations Tuesday night at the Ames High School cafeteria, where an official count of 849 Story County Democrats rallied for President Barack Obama in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.
With Obama speaking in a live feed, live music by a rock band called The Gist and campaign rhetoric from congressional candidate Christie Vilsack, Democrats put forth a show of force.
Speaking from the White House, Obama told applauding party members, “No one is a better messenger than you. You can tell your stories about how (our) policies have changed your lives, and you can do it better than any politician, including me.”
Vilsack asked for “an army of volunteers,” and Democrats responded as a shower of sign-up sheets landed in baskets handed around the room, just before the crowd separated into groups for precinct-level meetings.
Not everyone was enthusiastic in their support, however. Teri Veysey, representing the Occupy Iowa movement, said Obama should return Wall Street campaign donations and told Democrats to “move the president farther to the left.”
In an Ames High School classroom, Democrats talked about how holding a single county caucus may have put a dent in attendance from outlying areas.
“When we met at the high school auditorium four years ago, the place was filled,” Story City Democrat LeRoy Kester told a group of just a dozen people.
But there were enough willing people to fill out a roster of platform, precinct and convention planning committees, according to Judy Opstvedt, who chaired the meeting.
The caucuses drew residents like Bob Gitchell, who moved to Ames 38 years ago, and Pat Spangler, who moved here from Pocahontas seven months ago.
“It’s exciting to be part of something this big,” Spangler said. “In Pocahontas, our caucus filled only one room at the courthouse.”
Bob Zientara, a reporter for the Ames Tribune, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.