Clinton tries again in Iowa, now trying a different approach

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

MONTICELLO, Iowa — Hillary Rodham Clinton is searching for a second chance in the state that delivered the first blow to her failed presidential campaign eight years ago.

In the midst of a two-day swing through Iowa, the opening act of her 2016 campaign, Clinton is trying to show Democratic voters that she’s taking nothing for granted this time around. Today, Clinton tours a family-owned produce company and speaks with small-business leaders outside Des Moines, part of an effort by her campaign to focus on smaller, more personal interactions.

Speaking to students and teachers in Monticello on Tuesday, she sought to show a familiarity with Iowa issues, pointing to former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s work to help people with disabilities and noting that the average college student in the state carries nearly $30,000 in debt after graduation.

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The approach is starkly different than her previous effort in the state. In 2007, Clinton staged her major education, foreign policy, health care and energy rollouts in Iowa. She campaigned to big crowds across Iowa alongside members of the state Democratic establishment. She finished third.

This year, she made her Iowa debut at a coffee ship in the Mississippi River town of LeClaire, then on to a community college event in Monticello.

Declaring herself a “champion” for struggling families, Clinton laid out four pillars for her campaign for the Democratic nomination, listing the need to build “the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday,” strengthen families, fix dysfunctional government, and protect the country from threats. And though she’s running in what’s expected to be the most expensive election in history, Clinton embraced the idea of a constitutional amendment to get “unaccountable money” out of the campaign finance system.

Clinton didn’t get into any specifics on Tuesday about how she would achieve her goals, promising that she would do so in coming weeks. Instead, it was a day for political messaging, as Clinton presented a progressive rationale for her candidacy to quell skepticism from liberals in her party about her commitment to tackling income inequality.

Not all were sold, including some past allies. As Clinton spoke in Iowa, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran her campaign for Senate in New York, refused to endorse her, saying he wanted to hear more about her policy positions.

“The last time she was a candidate for president eight long years ago, the Great Recession had just begun,” he told reporters in the Bronx. “This is a different country we are living in right now. We need a vision that relates to this time, not eight years ago.”

Despite the support she expressed for overhauling the campaign finance system, her team has no plans to ask Democratic organizations, expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in support of her candidacy, to back down.