CNN’s Dana Bash traveled to Iowa over the weekend with Sen. Barack Obama. She turned in a report on the speculation of an Obama ‘08 Presidential run on “American Morning” this morning. Transcript follows…
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Count them, 50 days until Election Day ‘06, and ‘08 is not far behind. That means ‘08 isn’t far behind. It all begins in Iowa. That’s where we find Dana Bash this morning in Des Moines.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.
You know, Senator Tom Harkin’s steak fry is an annual event that always draws potential candidates for president, looking to meet Democratic activists. Now this year potential candidates for 2008 included Tom Vilsack, who is the governor of Iowa, and the former governor of Virginia, Mark Warner. But even they knew most in the 3,500-plus crow came to catch a glimpse of Senator Barack Obama, the new rising star in the Democratic Party.
BASH (voice-over): For hungry Democrats, a day to sample their new possibilities. The crushing crowd At this annual Iowa steak fry devouring Barack Obama. Rock star treatment for a 45-year-old senator in office just two years, 97 of 100 in Senate seniority.
A phenomenon not lost on the host, Senator Tom Harkin.
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: I said we tried to get Bono to be here, but we couldn’t, so we got the next biggest rock star i America, Barack Obama.
BASH: A trip to Iowa, home of the kickoff caucuses usually means you’re dipping a toe in the presidential waters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that you’ll be running for president one of these times.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I appreciate that.
BASH: Here there are T-shirts and petitions, begging him to run in ‘08. He doesn’t say yes, but he doesn’t say no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we recruit you to run for president?
OBAMA: Well, I don’t know about that. But I’m here to make sure — you can recruit me to make sure we get more Democrats in office in ‘06.
BASH: Obama has visited 25 states raising money for candidates this year. He urges Democrats to be tougher on national security, and scolds the Bush White House.
OBAMA: Tough talk doesn’t make you tough, that alienating our allies isn’t our strategy, that junking the Geneva Convention so that Colin Powell, and John McCain John warner have to stand up and say enough, that’s not being tough on terrorism!
BASH: One thing they like is his definition of Democrat.
OBAMA: We don’t want government to solve our problems, but what we do expect is that government can help. The government can make a difference in all of our lives.
O’BRIEN: Obama appears well aware celebrity guarantees crowds, but not necessarily lasting success.
OBAMA: When I look at sort of how I’m covered, there’s a lot of emphasis on the celebrity and the sizzle.
BASH: If he keeps coming back, there will be more questions about substance, from ethanol to Iraq to that senator named Clinton. But this was a day to say hello, flip a few steaks and just enjoy the sizzle.
BASH: Now speculation that Senator Obama us really thinking about running in 2008 spiked when he asked a veteran Democratic activist here to accompany him on his Iowa debut, someone who ran Al Gore’s campaign here in the year 2000. But the senator in one breath shrugged it off, telling us, well, he’s just a friend of his chief of staff. But in the next breath, he helped fueled the buzz. He said, why wouldn’t you want someone to come and help you out in territory you’ve never been to before — Carol.
COSTELLO: OK, so I wonder why Barack Obama is so popular, why he has so much sizzle. Was it because he was on “Oprah?” Is it his eloquent speaking style? What is it?
BASH: You know, that’s a great question. Everybody who came up to him, or many people who came up to him, said we heard you at the 2004 convention. Remember he was a speaker in 2004 in Boston, the Democratic Convention, and they said, we fell in love with you then. That is certainly part of it. And if you listen to the way he spoke to the crowd. He spoke to them, even talking to some activists, people who have been here for 30 years, listening to many, many potential hopefuls and people who came through Iowa. They say he’s speaking in a way that we just haven’t heard in a long time, Carol. Even a Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, was in the crowd. He said, if he does decide to run in 2008, if I’m a Republican, I’m pretty worried.
COSTELLO: I know. He was almost Clinton-esque. He was touching people’s arms, and of course he was kissing babies. We saw that.
Dana Bash reporting live from Iowa this morning, thanks.
BASH: Thank you.