Richardson Looks to Rally Last-Minute Support

ABC News' Sarah Amos reports: "Are we ready to take our country back?  Are we going to elect a Democratic president?  And what is that president's name?" shouted Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., at a packed rally in Des Moines this afternoon.

“Now, is this momentum, is this a real surge,” Richardson continued, to a surprisingly large crowd of over 500 people.

While the presidential front-runners of both political parties have been speaking to crowds of this size – and much larger - for the past 9 months, a crowd of 500 is something many of the lesser-supported candidates could only dream of. 

And today could have continued on that path, especially after actor Martin Sheen had to cancel his trip to join Richardson on the campaign trail. 

Instead, Richardson emerged this morning as a candidate determined to convince voters he deserves to finish in the top three, come caucus day.  And the crowd in Des Moines is clearly something that the Richardson campaign is hoping can push them through these last fours days of stumping before Thursday’s caucus.

"You know, if you listen to national media, the pundits in New York, there are only two or three candidates, but we are going to show them, we are going to shock the world, right?"  Richardson asked the crowd, adding that a new NBC poll today put his campaign “in striking distance of the top three," he said.

That NBC/McClatchy poll puts Richardson at 12 percent, and while that is a climb for his campaign, it is still a distant fourth to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and John Edwards, all of whom have the support of over 22 percent of Iowans. 

Still, the Richardson campaign is staying on message and sticking to their grass roots, house party campaign strategy. 

“I believe that the grass roots is where we are building support. Look at the polls, we’re moving, we’ve got momentum, we’ve got strength,” Richardson told ABC News at a house party before today’s rally.   “There is a 40 percent undecided that is going to surprise a number of people, and I believe it is going to candidates like me, that has the experience, the background, and the qualifications.”

The crowd at the Des Moines rally seemed to lend support to Richardson’s point, chanting through the governor’s resume while they waited for the speech to begin. 

Of course, one good-sized rally does not make a top three finish.  And while Richardson used the large crowd as a chance to push his views on the war in Iraq and energy conservation, his biggest push came as a plea for caucus votes. 

“And so, I ask you here today, I want your support, I humbly ask you to go to the caucus and support this campaign.  This insurgent campaign of an underdog,”  Richardson told the crowd at the conclusion of the rally - proving that if music, posters and chanting don’t work, a politician always knows how to just ask for votes.

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