The Obama and Clinton delegates huddled in dense packs at opposite ends of the long courthouse hallway, with the small knots of Edwards and Richardson supporters somewhere in the middle, left to decide which direction to go - or whether to hold out a while longer.
Buena Vista County Democrat delegates met in an upbeat county convention Saturday - introducing new local candidates and pounding out a somewhat controversial platform of issues as well as aligning those delegates to move on and represent their chosen presidential candidates at the district and state convention levels this spring.
Coming into the convention, Barack Obama had achieved a solid edge in the Buena Vista caucuses - with 37 delegates to the county convention as opposed to 25 for Hillary Clinton, 24 for John Edwards, 3 for Bill Richardson and one for Joe Biden.
In the second floor hallway, members of the Obama and Clinton camps wheedled and wooed, each trying to gain an upper hand in attracting delegates from the fallen candidates. They were only partly successful - some of the delegates for the candidates who have left the race were reluctant to realign, and are not obliged to do so.
After the negotiating smoke cleared, the dozen delegates moving on from BV County break down as six for Obama, four for Clinton, and two for Edwards. The same delegates serve for both the district and state conventions.
A couple of the Richardson supporters moved to Obama, none went to Clinton, party officials said. Most of the Edwards group held out.
They are perhaps waiting for their retired candidate to make a formal endorsement, or to see if he may emerge as a vice presidential possibility.
The situation was similar at conventions around the state. By Saturday evening, Obama had claimed over 52 percent of the Iowa delegates at the county level, Clinton had 31.5 percent, and Edwards had held onto 16 percent.
The 90 county delegates present at the courthouse, many bristling with pins and badges for their preferred candidate, also chose their county party leaders. Matt Pearson was re-appointed as chairman with no opposition. Diane Hamilton is co-chair. Kathy Bach is secretary, with Sandy Swanson as co-secretary.
The most enthusiastic round of applause met Pearson's statement that the local Democrats would support a candidate to oppose the ultra-conservative Congressional incumbent Steve King.
That race is suddenly focused, as Democrats Joyce Schulte and Bob Chambers have both just ended their short campaigns, leaving Democrat Rob Hubler, who has been campaigning for well over a year, to battle King.
Pearson noted that "for the moment," Democrats have only one member on the county board of supervisors. "We're going to work to change that," he said.
So far, the party has one candidate announced for each of the two supervisor districts up for election this year.
Don Altena and John Fitzpatrick will run in the respective districts, which are elected at large by all county voters. [See also "Candidates," page 1A.]
Seats for sheriff, auditor and local state representative and state senate will also be decided. Russ Camerer, Storm Lake, annouced that he will seek the House District 52 seat, facing incumbent Republican Gary Worthan.
Democrats also are organizing a campaign sign drive - seeking key, highly-visible properties in each town and along busy highway areas. "Come October, we want to have signs all over," Pearson said.
The party benefits from a caucus at a time when a number of candidates were still vital, attracting a number of Buena Vista County residents to register for the first time or switch affiliation.
"We have a whole bucketload of new Democrats, and we want more. We have a few members of the minority population here, and we want more," Pearson said, noting that a recruitment committee will also be at work.
As the afternoon wore on, the Democrats argued and approved many platform issues - some fairly standard for the party, others more unexpected.
The party pledges to rally around leaders who will represent the working men and women, small business owners and family farms.
"While corporations outsource their jobs and their executives and directors prosper, workers are forced to make wage and benefit concessions or lose their jobs," the party concluded.
Among the high-priority platform planks were: balancing the budgets at each level of government, calling for campaign finance reform and elimination of special interest influence, making funding of veterans programs mandatory rather than discretionary, making health care affordable and available, advocating civil rights for all.
After debate, BV Democrats expanded on their ideals of supporting full funding of education programs.
They called for funding growth for Iowa public schools to grow from the current year's 4 percent to at least 6 percent per year. They called to limit tuition increases at state universities and add funding for preschool and after-school programs - but decided to decline a plank to raise teacher salaries.
The county Democrats made a priority of demanding an exit strategy to end the Iraq war and turn reconstruction over the the UN, but decided to strike a proposed plank calling for all National Guard troops to be returned home with their future assignments restricted to stateside.
Some party members felt that the Guard should be retained on U.S. soil to respond to emergencies in the country, but others argued that their role must be to respond to wherever their country may need them in the world.
Examples of some of the other platform planks:
* Support tax breaks for companies that stay in the U.S. and taking away any federal breaks from those that choose to operate outside the country.
* Support trade only with countries with environmental and labor rights standards comparable to the U.S.
* At the state level, supporting more tourism spending, maintaining a liveable minimum wage, and supporting continuation of the Vision Iowa program which has funded developments such as Project AWAYSIS in Storm Lake.
* Supporting a 'viable, environmentally-safe livestock industry" - with the local control that the state legislature has been reluctant to permit.
* Calling for a repeal of the "No Child Left Behind" program of the Bush Administration's education initiative. A proposed plank to pay math and science teachers more than other teachers to retain them was defeated.
* Supporting women's rights to reproductive freedom as defined by Roe v. Wade.
* Supporting efforts to make Iowa universities leaders in stem cell research.
* Calling for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be re-examined due to the number of Native Americans living in poverty.
* Making insurance companies accept chronic or pre-existing conditions for coverage.
* Supporting repeal of the Patriot Act and a full investigation of the accuracy of pre-war intelligence on Iraq "in the possibility of the administration misusing or distorting their intelligence."
* Forcing the enforcement of the Geneva Convention standards and eliminating torture practices for prisoners.
* Opposing amending state or federal Constitutions specifically to restrict rights of gay or lesbian citizens - which follows the controversy over same-sex marriage in Iowa this past year.
* Affirming the human rights of U.S. immigrants to the U.S., but also to supporting full funding of the efforts to prevent illegal immigration.
In a statement, the BV Democrats concluded that the rich diversity of ethnic background brings a gift of languages and culture as well as the economic contributions of their work to the communities where they now resire.
The county's platform will be considered for potential inclusion as issues are determined for the party at the district, state and national levels.