MONTICELLO, IOWA — Christopher J. Dodd walked into the City Council chambers here just before noon a week ago hoping to convince local Democrats that he was the best choice for the party's 2008 presidential nomination. But for a message to be delivered, someone has to be on the receiving end, and on this cold, snowy morning only about 30 people had come out to hear the long-serving Connecticut senator's pitch.
And always, the candidates court the grass roots.
This month, Biden was the only presidential contender to speak before a regular meeting of the Polk County Democratic committee -- an overflow crowd gathered at a union hall near downtown Des Moines.
The other candidates sent surrogates, such as former state Democratic chairman Gordon Fischer for Obama, and Rob Tully, another former state chairman, for Edwards.
Clinton's surrogate? Former Vice President Walter Mondale. And when Biden and the other speakers were announced at the start of the meeting, Mondale got the biggest round of applause.