Democrats Focus on Rallies as Much as Speeches Ahead of Jefferson Jackson Dinner

Iowa Democrats are in Des Moines for the Jefferson Jackson Dinner

October 24, 2015, 2:55 PM
PHOTO: (L-R) Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton | Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley | Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
(L-R) Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in Washington, Oct. 23, 2015.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Oct. 24, 2015— -- Expectations were high for Saturday night's Jefferson Jackson Dinner, where Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley will ask the 6,000 Iowa Democrats in Hy-Vee Hall to caucus for them. But, the energetic and influential Dems from across the state may have already made-up their minds.

“Very few of the 6,000 who are coming tonight are actually undecided," Iowa Democratic Strategist Kevin Geiken told ABC News. "Most of the people who come to the J-J are here as a result of the campaign bringing them here so it’s really more of a pep-rally."

That's why the Bernie Sanders campaign is holding six watch parties throughout the state and is more focused on organizing outside the dinner.

“Were not converting anyone. Everybody in that room has made a choice. It should be about 1/3 our supporters, 1/3 Clinton, and the rest O'Malley," Pete D'Alessandro told ABC News, the Iowa Campaign Coordinator for Bernie Sanders. “We’re hoping to add somebody who kind of likes Bernie and is either watching at home or at a party, they hear the pitch and then say, I’m going to give you a couple hours a night now at the office because I’m energized."

Geiken, who was asked by the Iowa Democratic Party to help stage manage the event, says it reached its peak in 2007 when a then Sen. Obama tapped into an unspoken energy among Democrats.

“Obama was a little more relaxed than Hillary Clinton seven years ago, able to be a little bit more unscripted and he cut through the staging and the polls and really spoke directly to caucus-goers. His message was all about partisan politics and how things are becoming too divisive. He really fired up that crowd," said Geiken.

The candidate with the most at stake is former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who is making his 15th trip to the state and has already visit 40 of Iowa's 99 counties. His commitment to Iowa though has not been reflected in the polls.

“I’ve seen him literally stand in the middle of the room of Democrats and engage with the crowd in a lot of ways that Barack Obama did," Geiken said of O'Malley. "If he’s on his game and if he’s relaxed, he could give a very powerful speech."

Hillary Clinton's campaign is also putting a focus on organizing sending a video out Saturday morning entitled "100," the amount of days left till Democrats caucus on February 1st.

"The last thing we want to do is wake up on February 2nd wishing we'd done more. I’m confident in this team and in what we can accomplish for Hillary -- but we need to know right now that you’re in," Michelle Kleppe wrote to supporters in an e-mail, Hillary for America's Iowa Organizing Director.

To help motivate their volunteers for the final stretch, the Clinton campaign is holding an afternoon rally before the Jefferson Jackson Dinner featuring pop-star Katy Perry and former President Bill Clinton.

Bernie Sanders, who is trailing Clinton by seven points in the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll, will also be in downtown Des Moines. He'll be joined by supporters and members of "Bernie's All-Star Band" to march with the candidate across the Women of Achievement Bridge. For Martin O'Malley's campaign, it's all about introducing him to as many potential caucus-goers as possible so the candidate is bringing his guitar to his cover of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" which he played on ABC's "The View" last week.

When asked about the state of the race, Dr. Andy McGuire of the Iowa Democratic Party said she's not surprised by how competitive it is and expects the crowd at the J-J to reflect the spirits of all the three campaigns.

"One of these people is going to be President as far as I’m concerned so this kind of excitement is incredible," said McGuire.

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