The woman who some consider the front-runner for the Democratic Party’s next presidential nomination will be in Iowa this weekend.
New York Senator Hillary Clinton has not been to Iowa since November of 2003 when she was the emcee for an event that featured all the Democrats running for president last time around. Her husband never had to campaign hard here in either 1992 or ’96. Joe Shannahan has worked for Iowa Democrats like Tom Harkin, who ran for president in 1992 — keeping people like Bill Clinton out of Iowa for that year’s Caucuses. Shannahan sees a crowded field of competitors for Mrs. Clinton in 2008. "I think that a lot of the campaigns have started earlier and they’ve picked up some people. That’s not to say it’s not fluid," Shannahan says. "I think people make up their minds and then change their minds three or four times before the Caucuses."
Clark Rasmussen is the man who ran Clinton’s general election campaign in Iowa back in 1996. "We were not a targeted state," Rasmussen says. "The numbers were good here from day one, so (Iowa) wasn’t a priority." Rasmussen hasn’t talked with Senator Clinton about the race, but he offers this observation about what’s ahead in Iowa. "Obviously (Iowa) is a retail politics state and I believe she has to get in and mix it up," Rasmussen says. "I believe she’ll do very well here, but she’ll have to campaign."
Rasmussen’s son runs a bicycle repair shop and volunteered to hand out tickets for Saturday’s Clinton event at East High in Des Moines. "I have been down there a couple of times when people have walked in (to pick up tickets) and I’m just amazed at the number of people and they are not people who I’ve ever seen before," Rasmussen says. "I think she will generate a lot of interest."
It is the "she" part that is intriguing to some activists like Marti Anderson of the Iowa Democratic Womens’ Activist Network. "Our daughters and our nieces and our granddaughters all need to know that gender is not a factor in leadership," Anderson says. "Women can be leaders both in this country and in every aspect of life."
But Anderson is not ready to throw her support to Clinton, waiting to hear from all the candidates in the Democratic field before choosing one to support.
Don Smith of Grinnell, long-time co-chairman of Poweshiek County Democrats, says he’s concerned about "electability" and Smith doesn’t think Hillary Clinton can win the presidency. "The second thing is that I think she has been weak on the war issue," Smith says. "That’s why at the present time I am leaning towards Edwards and Obama is my second choice."
Smith dismisses polls which indicate Clinton is a front-runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. "I’ll also admit to something of an irrational prejudice about what I see as a complete unwillingness of the Washington-Inside-the-Beltway-People to appreciate that Edwards is ahead in Iowa and all their talk about it’s between Clinton and Obama is not going to change that," Smith says. "I don’t think an expenditure of money is going to change the behavior of Iowa Caucus-goers."
Clinton has hired an Iowa campaign manager who has experience here dating back to 1984. JoDee Winterhof worked on Tom Harkin’s presidential campaign 16 years ago, as well as four of Harkin’s senate campaigns.
Senator Clinton starts her Saturday in Des Moines, then heads to Cedar Rapids Saturday night. She’ll be in Davenport on Sunday.