Avenatti initially told Black he just wanted to attend but not speak. He was instead given the closing speaking slot Friday. There was some hesitation about the move, Black conceded and several local Democratic candidates who had earlier committed to attend backed out of the event after the decision to include Avenatti. Black could not say definitively it was because of Avenatti, but if it was, “then it’s their fault for not showing up.”

Other Iowa Democrats appeared energized — the dinner sold more than 400 tickets in the week after Avenatti’s attendance was confirmed. With other 2020 hopefuls seemingly reluctant to draw attention to themselves at this early stage, there was an opening for a newcomer like Avenatti, and “he did a darn good job,” Black added.

Potential caucus-goers seemed to agree.

“Ordinarily, a Joe Biden type of person would’ve been my candidate, but what he said tonight was exactly what I thought before I came,” said Mary Pat Cole, who attended the dinner. “We do need a fighter and he could stand up to Trump.”