GREENFIELD, IOWA, FEB. 6 -- Jesse L. Jackson's "jelly makers" work here. Of all places -- here.
Greenfield is a small farm town in southwest Iowa. It's largely conservative and Republican, and entirely white. But in the eyes of the "jelly makers" who work here -- the reference is to Jackson's line that he is a "tree shaker, not a jelly maker," meaning that he inspires and others do the detail work -- he's already a winner. And so are they.
Just over a year ago, on Super Bowl Sunday night, some local farm and Democratic activists invited Jackson to speak at a potluck church supper. The event began at kickoff time. The turnout, in a community of 2,200, was an astounding 600 people (and builds with each retelling).
"Something happened on a cold and wintry night in January," Jackson said of his first Greenfield visit. "We planned, but it was beyond our planning. We understood, but it was beyond our understanding."
A kind of love affair blossomed between candidate and community. Since then, Jackson set up his state headquarters here in an old Sears catalogue store a block north of the town square. It's the only state headquarters not situated in the state's political and media capital, Des Moines, 60 miles away.
He returned to Greenfield in March to announce the creation of a national exploratory committee, in October to announce for the presidency (on that trip, several dozen Greenfield residents opened their homes for the night to traveling journalists and staff -- there being no hotels in town), and again at Christmas, for a visit with his family. He'll be back Monday, caucus night, for the "victory party."
Jackson's goal is to get 10 percent in Iowa, which would mean he would finish in the middle of the pack.
"You go along in your life accepting things the way they are, and then something like this comes along that jolts you back to empowerment," said Susan Olesen, 38, a special education teacher who volunteers 20 hours a week at Jackson headquarters.
"Jesse Jackson gives people hope," she continued. "We get letters from people with crumpled up dollars saying he makes them feel like they can make a difference. That's what it's all about."
Judy Bierkamp, the mother of eight and one of 15 paid staffers at the state headquarters, has similar motivations. "The attitude of people in Des Moines towards places like this is, 'Turn out the lights and come on into the hub.' But there is a different quality of life here. Jesse Jackson understands that; he wants to preserve it. He respects people; he respect the land. He cares."
In 1984, Jackson made just one campaign swing into Iowa -- and got just 1.5 percent of the delegates. This campaign, he has been here 61 days, has a statewide staff of 35, and volunteers have poured in from around the nation. He has also run his first television ads -- one featuring Bill Cosby; another a clip of Bob Smith, a Chillicothe, Mo., farmer telling Jackson supporters at a Greenfield rally last October how Jackson helped save his farm the year before by interceding with a federal loan officer.
This is what Jackson does on the campaign trail -- tries to help people, and then have them tell the folks about it at the next stop. Last week, for example, he broke off from campaigning in Iowa to speak to a rally in Kenosha, Wis., where the closing of a Chrysler plant will cost 5,500 jobs. When he came back to campaign here, he had the Kenosha mayor and head of the UAW local in tow.
"He heard the hurts," said Ed Steagall, the union leader, said at a union event in Des Moines. "He took the time. Where were the other candidates?"
Jackson hopes to collect enough people with enough grievances to make a double-digit showing in a state that is less than 2 percent black.
"The biggest disadvantages we have is that there are a lot of Jesse Jackson supporters in this state who don't usually go to caucuses, and we don't have the resources to find them," said John Norris, 28, a former director of the Farm Unity Coalition and aide to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is managing Jackson's statewide effort.
Norris thinks that up 1,000 volunteers will be working on caucus night to get a vote out.
Their field director is Kate Head, 25, who said she has been living on a diet of "cigarettes, milkshakes and coffee" since she came out here in October from Washington.
Head said she spends her time "educating 400 people, so they can educate 4,000. For the caucuses, I tell them: Bring a calculator, wear warm socks, work the room and don't leave until everyone else has."
Still, she wishes she had the resources of the better-financed, bigger-staffed campaigns.
"You hear funny things," she said. "The Rotarians in Lucas County had a straw poll the other day, and apparently we got five of 25 votes. But we don't know who they are."