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THE IOWA CAUCUSES: SCENES FROM THE PRECINCTS

Obama backers get together for a noisy party

January 04, 2008|Maria L. La Ganga | Times Staff Writer

DES MOINES — They cheered when the first early results were projected on the huge television screen, when NBC called the race for their man, when John Edwards started his concession speech.

They even cheered the bar charts: demographic breakdowns of voter behavior, the grist of political punditry, not wild celebration.

"Look at that," came a voice from the happy, churning crowd, "he's killing her with women!"

This being Hy-Vee Hall on Thursday night, "he" was none other than Barack Obama, the newly minted winner of the Iowa caucuses, and "her" the disappointed junior senator from the Empire State, the former front-runner Hillary Clinton.

But all those cheers were just a warm-up for the throat-scraping hollers that greeted Obama when he strode on stage with his beaming family and said the words they had waited 10 months to hear:

"Years from now," he said, "you'll look back and you'll say that this was the moment and this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope."

Kari Fokken will remember Thursday night for a long time. Obama was the reason the 25-year-old high school teacher ventured out to her first caucus, part of the energized young army that made his victory possible.

Obama "has been a fresh face in politics. He motivated a new generation, people my age," she said in the packed party as she was jostled by some of those very voters.

"Look here. You'd never have seen these faces out before."

And then Harry O'Daniels weaved by, sweat popping from his forehead in the cold, cavernous hall, his black jacket covered with blue Obama stickers.

You knew it was Harry O'Daniels because of the saucer-sized button pinned to his chest. "Harry O'Daniels Supports Barack Obama," it proclaimed, and you can just guess whose name was bigger.

O'Daniels gave his own happy warm-up speech for the man whose victory he had worked hard to ensure.

Obama "gave us a reason to believe," proclaimed the 54-year-old resident of the 63rd Precinct. "And we gave him a reason to pass on forward.

"They said this will resonate across the country," O'Daniels said.

"Let the resonating begin."

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maria.laganga@latimes.com

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