Note from Bil: While I liveblogged last year's Indiana Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner, I've not felt well this weekend so guest blogger Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is going to cover the event for The Bilerico Project and Bilerico-Indiana. Abdul is an Indianapolis talk radio host on WXNT and a good friend of mine. My thanks to Abdul for his generosity.
With less than 48 hours to go until election time, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are making their major sales pitch tonight to Indiana Democrats. Both candidates, along with DNC Chairman Howard Dean will speaking at tonight's Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner. Also scheduled to speak are the two candidates for Governor, Jill Long Thompson and Jim Schellinger. I'm here too, and I'll be live blogging from the event. Stay tuned. -Abdul
9:50pm - Democrat Barack Obama has just taken the stage and was introduced by former Congressman Lee Hamilton. I was told the Clinton camp was opposed to the two making and joint appearance, but apparently something back stage changed all that.
Barack's opening ovation was at least equal to Clinton's. He reminded the audience why he was running, which was to help make badly needed change in this country. He told the audience his campaign has brought people together from all walks of life who all want change.
Rest of Barack's appearance after the jump.
Barack said the economy was in serious trouble, regardless of whether it was in an official recession.
Barack, trying to connect with those working-class white voters, said America was the place where anyone could make it if they tried. He told how America gave members of his family opportunities to have lives better than the ones before them.
He asked the audience "where was the America of that generation?"
He also took a swipe at Hillary Clinton by asking how many decades have America's serious problems existed, while elected officials did nothing but talk about them.
Barack told the audience that a better America is possible if Americans work together. (That line for him a standing ovation.) He said politics didn't lead him to working people, but working people led him to politics. He also said the nation could not afford four years of a McCain Presidency.
Barack said America's does best when it leads by principles and convictions. He took another swipe at Hillary saying that 30 years in office did nothing to solve the nation's energy problems and mocked her gas tax proposal saying it would only save Hoosiers 30-cents a day for a few months.
He told the audience that he was the only candidate that could fundamentally change the way things work in Washington. He also echoed the theme that the election was bigger than any candidate but about reclaiming the American dream.
He promised to pay for universal health care by rolling back the Bush tax cuts and criticized John McCain, saying the "wheels came off the straight talk express."
He said the money to pay for his programs could come from savings from Iraq.
Much of what he said, he's already said on the campaign trail but it still got a big round of applause from the audience.
Barack also spoke for about 30 minutes.
9:30pm - The program is running late, no big surprise. These things always happen. DNC Chairman Howard Dean has just taken the stage. He continues to stress the message of unity. He says Democrats will win, regardless of who the party nominates. Dean says Democrats have a chance to win in places where they haven't won before.
Dean said he understands how a candidate's supporters can be upset if they don't win, but this race is bigger than the candidates. He said the race is about the future and Democrats will need to come together.
He also said John McCain was out of touch with the nation and he took a swipe at Gov Mitch Daniels for leasing the Indiana Toll Road and bringing Daylight Savings Time to Indiana.
Dean reminded the audience that the election will be close. Dean was briefly interrupted by Clinton supporters who demanded the votes of Michigan and Florida be counted towards the primary.
Dean also told his fellow Democrats that they were more influential in affecting the outcome of the Presidential race than traditional get-out-the-vote efforts. He encouraged them to go out and talk to their neighbors and convince them to vote for Democrats in the fall.
8:40pm - DNC Chairman Howard Dean was supposed to take the stage now, but he didn't, Hillary Clinton did. She came on to thunderous applause and Mellencamp's "Our Country." Her voice seemed raspy from a long day of talking. Hillary told her fellow Democrats that Hoosiers are the kind of people that keep the country going and it was time there was a President who would work for the middle class.
She invoked the Indy 500 by asking the audience if they were "ready to start their engines" and get a Democrat elected to the White House. She also touched on a message of unity by saying when the primary was over the party would come together regardless of who the nominee was.
She said Indiana is playing a crucial role and asked the audience that if they listened closely they could hear the sound of a moving van pulling up to the Bush White House and the current President moving out and a Democrat taking over. She accused Republicans of looking after the wealthy and ignoring the middle and working class. She said Democrats are reaching out to independents and Republicans to join them to turn the country around.
She also said she carried the dream of her middle class parents and their generation who would never waiver from the American Dream. It was pretty much the same speech she'd given on the stump time and again.
Clinton did come across as a much warmer and more personable figure in this address than in previous speeches. She took a swipe at her opponent by saying there's been enough speeches and rhetoric and said her Presidency would be real solutions for the problems facing working and middle-class Americans.
She reiterated her call for relief from high gas prices and inferring her plan to suspend the federal gas tax for the summer months saying it was a short-term for relief that the nation needed and not just talking about a long-term solution. She said for every taxpayer who got a $600 tax cut they also saw their energy prices go up $2,000 since the Bush administration took office. She also called for an investigation into speculators on the oil market claiming they were also responsible for high prices and for fuel efficient vehicles to be made in Indiana.
Hillary said she would be a President who will take on the oil companies and oil producing companies and will also take the tax breaks from corporations and will give them to the working and middle class families.
She also promised to get tough on trade with the Chinese and deliver universal health care and force insurance companies to cover all medical conditions. She also promised to restore America's name abroad and start withdrawing troops from Iraq within 60 days of taking office. Hillary also said John McCain would bring four more years of the same.
She took another swipe at Barack and his rhetoric by implying it was not enough to make real change in Washington against the special interests.
She also alluded to her ability to come back from behind by invoking the movie "Hoosiers."
Clinton spoke for about 30 minutes.
8:15pm - Indiana Democrats' favorite son is on stage now, Evan Bayh. He got the best opening so far. While speaking, he stressed a message of unity. Bayh said although some in the audience have come to support either Hillary or Barack, either could do a better job George W. Bush. Bayh said Indiana was flyover country for 40 years and now it matters. He said both candidates have listened to new voters and by working together Democrats can put Indiana in the blue column. Indiana has not voted for a Democrat for President since 1964.
Bayh told the audience that although he is for Clinton he is not against Barack Obama. Bayh said come election night, some people will be disappointed but Democrats can't let that disappointment stop them from voting for either winner in the election.
Bayh said both Hillary and Barack will fight for universal health care, withdrawing troops from Iraq and fighting for the middle class.
7:15pm - Indiana Democrats just sat down to dinner. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Howard Dean are all up next in about an hour.
6:55pm - Jim Schellinger is up next. He's being introduced by his wife Laura. Laura took a swipe at the incumbent saying that her husband "won't ride around in an RV trying to look like one of us because he is one of us." Schellinger seemed to get a larger round of applause and standing ovations from the party faithful than Thompson.
He joked about the Presidential race being over shadowed by the Governor's race. Schellinger said it was failed leadership in the Governor's office that was holding the state back. Schellinger mocked Mitch Daniels, calling his leadership arrogant - that it is out of touch with the problems facing Hoosiers every day. He also said he has never seen the state more divided over issues ranging from the economy to privatization. Schellinger also tied Daniels to President Bush.
He said Indiana needs leadership that listens and he cited his "Pick up Indiana" plan. The largest applause came from Schellinger's promise to reinstate collective bargaining for state employees. He also said health care should be a right from cradle to grave. He also said local governments are doing great and "they should not be kicked".
Schellinger was also more animated than any other time I have ever seen him on the trail. He also took a swipe at Jill Long Thompson saying Hoosiers should ignore those who resort to negative attacks and distort the truth.
I'll give Jim credit. He hasn't run the most inspiring campaign, but this was the best speech I'd ever seen him give. He should have done this a long time ago.
6:45pm - Jill Long Thompson is taking the stage. She was introduced by Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez. She got a nice round of applause and some standing ovations. She thanked Hillary and Barack for inspiring Hoosiers in a way that hasn't been done since 1968. She said the two will help Indiana go from red to blue this election year. She also invoked the memory of U.S. Senator Birch Bayh, calling him a hero and the passing of the Voting Rights Act and Title IX which required funding for female college sports programs. She said Hoosiers have new generation of problems such as job losses, rising health care costs, unemployment. She called for an end to the Bush-Daniels era. She also invoked the family farm, which she has done in just about every campaign speech. She said she can provide the leadership to get Indiana back on track. She repeated her theme of reforming the tax structure, health care, capping the sales tax on gasoline, work to end No Child Left Behind. She also said she'd stop the "Governor's obession" with selling off state assets.
6:10pm - The crowds are filtering into the room here at the JJ Dinner. I hear Hillary is doing very well in Southern Indiana but Lee Hamilton's endorsement of Barack is having some Hoosiers give him a second look. Also I haven't found anyone who thinks Jim Schellinger is going to be able to pull a victory of Jill Long Thompson, regardless of how positive they sound. Also, everyone thinks Carson will pull out a victory, but not by much. Stay tuned.