It’s common in Iowa circles that, one reason Kerry won the Iowa caucuses was his showing at the Iowa State Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner in 2003, which spearheaded him to the caucus victory over frontrunners

Nowhere is that more well known that with the Obama camp, which has been organizing for the JJ dinner for months, and yesterday, their work paid off. From David Yepsen at the Des Moines Register.

Obama was particularly impressive Saturday night. Should he win the Iowa caucuses, Saturday’s dinner will be remembered as one of the turning points in his campaign in here, a point where he laid down the marker and began closing on Clinton, the national frontrunner.

I was there last night with my parents, who had never seen any Presidential candidates or any politicians even before, in their entire lives. As of today, they’re behind Barack. The atmopshere was amazing, the campaign ran out of t-shirts because so many people showed up at the pre-rally, followed by a march to the arena, where 5,000 people swamped the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

Inside, it felt like half the arena was Barack supporters, who also happened to have the best sections, in the center. In actuality, it was about 3,000 of 9,000 in the balcony and the floor. Hillary’s supporters were stuck on far side of the arena, near the edges of the sideways U, Edwards was in one of the corners, and between Obama and Hillary. Dodd in the far upper corner, hidden in the shade. Biden had it worse, stuck with a tiny section on the edge of Hillary’s section.

In the Obama section, every two rows had a seat captain, who handed out different signs throughout the evening, gave out water, and led chants and cheers, but only during appropriate times. During the other candidates speeches, the Obama section was respectfully quiet, even clapping during John Edwards fantastic speech when he spoke about ending the lobbyists control of Washington.

When Barack was introduced, Nancy Pelosi had to wait for the cheers to subside, and for the first time all evening, the arena seemed full. The circular “O” signs were being waved throughout the arena, and Barack gave a speech with lines reminscent of his famous DNC convention speech, a starkly contrasting message from the red meat and partisan bashing that all the other candidates brought out. A message of unity, of reconciliation, and of moving to the future.

But the real congratulations goes to the campaign staff. If they can turn 5,000 people on a dreary Saturday to march in downtown Des Moines, bring 3,000 people from all 99 Iowa counties to sit for 5 to 6 hours in a old, badly lit arena, then just imagine how many people they will turn out on caucus night. Organization wins the caucuses, and last night, Barack Obama’s organization won the JJ dinner, hands down.

More on the Jefferson Jackson Dinner

See Barack’s entire speech here.

Scenes from Jefferson-Jackson, NYT

Obama Shines in Iowa – The New Republic

Crossposted on DailyKos

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