Richardson Rallies The Troops In Des Moines

DES MOINES, IOWA - "The election of the next President of the United States should not be by the national media, it should be by Iowa," an energetic Bill Richardson told a boisterous crowd of about 200 people in downtown Des Moines this afternoon.* He vowed to "shock the world" by winning the caucus and spoke of a recent poll that put him "within striking distance of the top three."

In a 20 minute speech, Richardson ticked off his presidential plans, among them getting U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year, universal health care, more cancer research, eliminating No Child Left Behind, making mental health a priority, and "stopping the Bush administration from building condominiums on forests."

In a shot at Dick Cheney, Richardson promised that "my vice president will be a member of the executive branch." He engaged in a call and response with the crowd at both the beginning and end of the speech, opening by asking, "Are we ready to take our country back?" The crowd responded: "Woo!"

"Are we going to elect a Democratic president?," Richardson then asked. "Yeeees!," the audience yelled back. "What's that president's name?," Richardson wondered. "Bill!," they said.

Richardson entered the room to U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." He apologized to the crowd for the absence of Martin Sheen, the actor who played the president on "The West Wing," who has endorsed Richardson. "I was ordered by my doctor not to travel to Iowa because I have a severe, contagious cold that would not allow me to fly," Sheen said in a letter of support for Richardson, which was read to the crowd before the New Mexico governor spoke.

Before the speech began, Jim Uhl, a welder from Des Moines, explained why he supported Richardson.

"He's got more experience with foreign policy, and I like what he's done with veterans programs in New Mexico," said Uhl. "His health care policies are a big thing too. My wife has medical problems and we have a hard time paying the premiums. We may need to get a divorce just so she can get some kind of health care."

When Richardson was working the crowd before the speech, he and Uhl exchanged a high five.

*NOTE: After this post was published, the Richardson campaign wrote saying they estimated 500 people at the event.