DES MOINES — All three Democratic presidential candidates took the stage in Des Moines Saturday night to address attendants of the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
More than 6,600 people attended the event in Des Moines which has historically been important to candidates leading up to the Iowa Caucus.
Those not seated at a dinner table sat in bleachers reserved for supporters of each of the candidates. Throughout the evening the sections competed to outdo the others, with many chanting and waving signs and glow sticks.
The dinner followed multiple rallies held in the area, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s, at which pop star Katy Perry — who also attended the Jefferson-Jackson dinner — performed. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander’s campaign had a plane flying over downtown Des Moines with a “Feel the Bern” sign flying behind it.
Sanders’s theme throughout his speech was on consistency throughout his political career.
Sanders said he went against the majority on multiple occasions, including by voting against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. The bill was passed with a majority of 342 to 67 in the house and 85 to 14 in the Senate. Sanders said while he was in Congress in 1999 he voted against the deregulation of Wall Street.
Sanders also touted higher minimum wage, reconstruction of infrastructure and the overturn of Citizens United Supreme Court case in 2010.
“I am the only Democratic candidate without a Super PAC,” Sanders said, a comment which was received by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters.
At one point during the dinner, Sanders left the fenced-in dining area to visit his supporters out at the bleachers, where they flocked to him.“From what I could tell, he had the most energetic group of supporters,” said Jeff Rohrick, a Sanders supporter from Des Moines.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley had a speech motif that focused on action, not words.
“Not all of us have a record of getting things done. I do,” O’Malley said, advertising his time as governor.
O’Malley called for a raise in minimum wage, advancing the cause of paid family leave, making college more affordable and expanding Social Security. He also called for moving the United States toward a clean electric energy grid by 2050.
The former governor praised President Obama’s record, but told the audience that the country elected a president, not a magician and reminded it that there was work to be done.
“I am in this to win this,” O’Malley told the crowd. “I need your help.”
O’Malley’s bleacher section was noticeably not a loud as the other candidates’ sections, but he had supporters.
“I think he’s honest and for the American people and willing to work very hard for them,” said Ruby Millsap, an O’Malley supporter from Malven, Iowa.
Clinton made of point of saying she was not running for my husband’s third term or Obama’s third term, Clinton said at the dinner.
“I’m running for my first term, and I’m running as a proud Democrat,” Clinton said.
If elected as president, Clinton — among talking about other issues — promised to seek comprehensive immigration reform, to address the plague of gun violence and to overturn the Citizens United decision.
Clinton, who served as secretary of state under Obama, made a point of saying that she did not think Obama gets the credit he deserves.
“I think it’s really important in this election to remember what President Obama inherited,” Clinton said. “He inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
Clinton also addressed being accused of playing the gender card by Republicans. She told the audience that if talking about certain issues was playing the gender card, they could “deal her in.”
Clinton supporters often broke out chanting, “I’m with her.”
“She’s the most experienced candidate who can speak to issues both domestic or foreign,” said Barb Madden-Bittle, a Clinton supporter from West Des Moines.
The dinner comes after a week filled with news about the Democratic race. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday he would not launch a campaign, while on Friday, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee dropped out of the race.
Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb dropped out of the Democratic race on Monday, saying he would look at his options — including a possible independent run.
Both Chafee and Webb were scheduled to speak at the dinner but cancelled following their announcements.
The dinner also come after new polling numbers showing Clinton maintaining a slight lead over Sanders. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released Thursday morning showed Clinton with 48 percent support of caucus goers, compared to Sanders’ 41 percent. O’Malley registered support from just 2 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.