DES MOINES IOWA -- Oregon state Senator Margaret Carter, standing on a snowy doorstep, chatted with a voter inside, doing what she does best: talking politics. But this time it's not for her own race, but for Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards. And this time the door step is not in Northeast Portland, but in a subdivision in Altoona, Iowa.
Carter joined her co-chair of the Oregon/John Edwards for President campaign, Portland Attorney Robert Stoll and a half dozen other Oregonians last weekend to help with down-to-the-wire campaign efforts. Fanning out from their hotel in downtown Des Moines, they've phone-banked from the Steelworkers Union Hall and braved 9 degree temperatures and slippery sidewalks in order to tell as many Iowans as possible why John Edwards is the most elect-able candidate among the field of seven Democratic hopefuls.
When the caucus votes were tallied, Barack Obama finished first, with Edwards in a narrowly won 2nd place with Hillary Clinton in at 3rd.
With hours to go before Iowa's traditional first-in-the-nation caucuses, which began at 7 p.m. Thursday evening, Carter found herself in the middle of real American democracy in action.
"Iowans know the eyes of the nation and the world are upon them this week," Carter said. "And they're taking their job seriously. They are the most well-informed group of voters I've ever encountered on the doorstep. I'm standing there waiting to give them a campaign flyer and they want to invite me into their homes to talk about the details of John Edwards' universal healthcare plan or his plan to end global warming."
Carter's canvassing partner today is Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito and she concurs, "It's been an amazing and humbling experience to witness an electorate that is so eager to inform themselves about each candidate that they invite you into their homes to discuss issues and policies."
Naito, like hundreds of other volunteers from all corners of the county, was on vacation last week, spending her own nickel to be here in Iowa, aiding the John Edwards effort. "I've been knocking on doors for four days now, and I can see that Iowans are very thoughtful about their choice. Past polling says that one out of five has not yet made up their mind on who they'll caucus for – those are the people I'm trying to talk to about John Edwards."
Across town on Saturday evening, Naito's sister-in-law, Terri Wong Naito spoke to about 75 members of the Chinese Association of Iowa at the Golden Tea Pot.
"There may be only about 100 Chinese in Des Moines," said Wong Naito, "but I need to let them know how important their voice is. Twenty percent of Chinese Americans don't have health insurance..."
Driving along one of the hundreds of miles of rural roads in Iowa are Roy Pulvers and his daughter Evan Pulvers, a 2005 Grant High School graduate and college sophomore who are spending her winter break working the campaign trail for Edwards.
All the Oregonians on the Iowa campaign trail this week agree that the most effective canvasser has been attorney Stoll. "It's like talking to a jury," Stoll claims. At one Pleasant Hill, Iowa home, Stoll trudged up the driveway despite the prominent "Clinton" sign planted in the snow. "Maybe she'll consider Edwards as a second choice," said the optimistic Stoll. By the time he was done talking to the 53-year-old woman, she had signed a pledge card for Edwards (an action akin to a solemn oath for Iowans) and Stoll, at the woman's request, was replacing the Clinton sign with a John Edwards for President lawn sign.