Des Moines, Iowa: Hillary Rodham Clinton turned to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and pop singer Katy Perry to energize her campaign's faithful Saturday before a pivotal gathering of thousands of Democrats.
One hundred days remain before Iowa's vote that leads off the state by state race for presidential nominations, and Clinton's event was designed to generate enthusiasm before the state Democratic party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner.
The dinner caps a key stretch for Hillary Clinton, who received a boost from Vice President Joe Biden's decision not to run for president on Wednesday and then put together a grinding, competent appearance on Thursday before a Republican-led congressional committee probing the deadly 2012 attacks on diplomatic outposts in Benghazi, Libya.
"She's my firework," Perry told Clinton's supporters, wearing a white strapless gown adorned with a Clinton campaign logo and a flowing American flag cape at a free concert.
Bill Clinton told the rally that during the last few weeks Americans have "learned a lot about Hillary, what she's for, why she's running and what kind of president she would be." With tongue in cheek, he complained that he was tired of women having a "stranglehold" on the position of first spouse and hoped to break that White House gender barrier.
More than 6,000 activists were expected at the dinner, which traditionally serves as a kickoff to the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.
Clinton and her chief Democratic presidential rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, sit atop a Democratic presidential field that has effectively pared down to a two-person race for the nomination after Biden announced this week he would not seek the White House.
Sanders rallied thousands of cheering supporters before marching across a bridge spanning the Des Moines River.
Sanders, the independent Vermont senator, later used a speech to draw sharp contrasts with Clinton on a number of issues, implicitly criticizing her delayed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Keystone XL pipeline to Canada as well as her vote in favor of the Iraq war.
"I will govern based on principle not poll numbers," Sanders said. "I pledge to you that every day I will fight for the public interest not the corporate interests." He vowed "not to abandon any segment of American society - whether you're gay or black or Latino or poor or working class - just because it is politically expedient at a given time."
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley hoped for a breakout performance at the dinner, which catapulted President Barack Obama in the autumn of 2007 and led to his surprising victory in the caucuses.
Two lesser-known Democrats, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, abandoned the race following Clinton's strong performance on Oct. 13 in the first primary debate.
In the hours before the fundraiser, Iowa's capitol city was full of pageantry as supporters of the three campaigns poured into Des Moines wearing T-shirts and waving signs. Some Clinton enthusiasts painted their cars to show support for the former secretary of state, and her team dispatched young loyalists along street corners to wave signs at passing cars.
Bill Clinton headlined his first campaign rally at the pre-dinner concert featuring Perry, a Clinton backer whose hit song, "Roar," is an anthem at Hillary Clinton events. The former president has raised money for his wife's campaign, but the rally was his first big splash during the race.
At the free concert, Perry performed her hits "Roar," and "Firework," along with a rendition of "America the Beautiful."
The dinner, called the "J-J," is an important showcase for Sanders, a Vermont independent who has drawn large crowds with his calls for a "political revolution" to address the gap between the wealthy and the poor.
Clinton placed third in Iowa in 2008 and has since vowed to build a formidable organization to power her to victory here. She has sought to present herself as the heir to Obama's legacy, while Sanders offers an anti-establishment message and often notes the large numbers of Democrats who stayed home in the 2014 midterm elections.
A recent Iowa poll by Bloomberg Politics and The Des Moines Register found Clinton with a slight lead in the state over Sanders, with the two candidates the choice of 9 in 10 voters. O'Malley was at 2 percent....