Art Hedberg of Des Moines, who was big for Kennedy in '80, has heard the call to battle again.
"I'm getting to be an old man," said the middle-aged attorney who was in the advance guard of the draft Kennedy movement last time. "I don't know if I can do it again with him. I've never been in a campaign that lost so bad but had so much fun."
Another Iowan, David Manley, the county chairman from Mason City, observed through the confetti and cacophony of Edward M. Kennedy's mini-convention welcome: "I still like Kennedy, but I'm only leaning. I want to take a good look at Gary Hart. He was excellent in our foreign policy workshop. But he needs to be more forceful, a little more rah-rah."
For all the talk of who won and who finished in what order in the presidential cattle show at the Democratic mid-term conference in Philadelphia, the uncertainty and fluidity of the presidential politicking to come was reflected in the 13 delegates from Iowa, the nation's first presidential caucus state. They will be among the nation's earliest decision-makers and they left Philadelphia enthused but uncommitted.
The men who will be the boys of winter, 1984, emerged with their presidential prospects essentially unchanged: the front-runners are still the front-runners, and the others remain back in the pack.
But even as the cheers echoed through the Philadelphia convention hall, a number of delegates expressed a yearning for new faces and uncertainty about the electability of the front-runners they were celebrating.
Hedberg and Manley reflected this. And among the Walter F. Mondale backers was Melvina Scott.
She came to Philadelphia backing Mondale, as she had backed Carter-Mondale in 1980, and came close to political ecstasy when his speech captivated the conference on opening day. But Kennedy's emotional climax to the convention had brought her to the brink of conversion.
"Now they're both up there equally," said Scott, an insurance agent from Waterloo. "I was going to divide my time between selling insurance and Mondale. Now maybe I'll sell insurance and Mondale and Kennedy too."
As front-runners, Kennedy and Mondale both did what had to be done in Philadelphia.
Mondale had the most to lose there. He wore a co-front-runner's label that hung only by the fragile thread of name recognition.
He was actually a front-runner by reputation only: after two years of traveling the country as a former vice president, he came out of the latest Gallup Poll as the presidential choice of only 12 percent of the Democrats polled--whomped by Kennedy's 45, and just a few points ahead of the pack.
Even his circle of advisers had been privately cautioning that he was in trouble, that his candidacy seemed in danger of being doomed before it started. And that he faced the risk of being written off by the Democratic insiders who were supposed to be his strength if he could not score better with the party loyalists and officeholders at the mini-convention than he was in the polls.
And so the Mondale camp was duly enthused--and relieved--when their leader, who was not known for his dramatic flair, scored grandly on the opening day.
Kennedy's task at the mid-term was different.
For Ted Kennedy to arouse a Democratic convention is about as difficult as for Billy Graham to arouse a Southern Baptist convention.
And so it came as no surprise that Kennedy was able to bring the convention to a dramatic climax with his clarion of old-time Democratic religion. Indeed, the other candidates had been leery of speaking just before or just after Kennedy for this reason.
Kennedy's goal was to heal the wounds from his challenge to the party's incumbent president in 1980. He did that by praising Jimmy Carter in his speech. And he seemed to make progress toward that end in his private meetings with delegates as well.
But Kennedy, with his brilliantly constructed speech also won additional support that perhaps he did not realize he had to win. This was from Chuck Gifford, of Iowa's United Auto Workers, who was instrumental in Carter's first-ever victory in the state's 1976 caucus, but who became disillusioned and switched to Kennedy in 1980.
Before Kennedy spoke, Gifford had said: "I'm frustrated. I don't see the Democrats saying what I want to hear. About 35,000 auto workers [in Iowa] are unemployed. I'm sick and tired of this. I'm not a young man anymore . . . . I'm sick and tired of hearing platitudes from the candidates."
And after: "He buoyed me up again. I was apprehensive about another Kennedy effort because he took such a beating last time. But he seemed much more mature . . . a statesman. His best line was when he said that the one thing this country does not need is two Republican parties."
The other five still have many months: John Glenn, whose fame still comes mainly from the trail in space he once blazed; Gary Hart, whose infatuation with issues and answers runs against the grain of traditional campaigning; and Ernest Hollings, Alan Cranston and Reubin Askew, who are still little known nationally.
Few are looking far ahead. But among the truly farsighted is Sam Grillo, a Philadelphia ward heeler. At a private luncheon that Mondale had with that city's political leaders, he interupted the candidate in mid-response to get right to the long-range imperatives of the making of the next president.
"That's great, but tell me something, Mister Vice President," Grillo said. "On election day are we going to have street money?"