Two men who may challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s next presidential nomination rallied with central Iowa Democrats tonight, with one denouncing the corrupting influence of money in politics and the other criticizing a campaign tactic employed by Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign. Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb sounded like a presidential candidate, even though he has not officially declared that he is one.
“We are happy to be here in Iowa. We’re going to be back in Iowa,” Webb said, after telling the crowd he had arrived in Iowa Thursday, but his luggage had arrived today. “I’m committing to you right now we’re going to go over the whole state here. We’re going to be back as many times as we can get here.”
Webb spoke to over 250 people gathered in a union hall for a Polk County Democrats’ fundraiser.
“I want to say something that troubles me a lot and I think there are a lot of people in this room who’d agree. Money is ruining our political process if we don’t get a hold of it,” Webb said, earning applause from the crowd.
Webb urged Democrats not to be “marginalized” or pressured by moneyed interests to become the “moderate wing of the Republican Party.”
“We are never going to find an answer in the Republican Party on issues like economic fairness and giving people who have no voice in the corridors of power the voice of that the Democratic Party, the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, has always given them,” Webb said at the conclusion of his speech.
AUDIO of Webb’s speech, 17:00
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley — a likely challenger to Clinton — was the evening’s closer and he championed Democratic priorities like preserving the rights of union workers and defended President Obama’s stewardship of the country since his election in 2008.
“And at that moment, all of us had a decision to make: Would we be part of bringing our country back or would we sit back on our haunches and say, ‘Let’s see if he actually can,'” O’Malley said. “Well, in our state, while others tried to cut their way to prosperity, we started supporting our president, doing the things that work.”
O’Malley said in his state that meant rejecting “trickle down” economics and, instead, raising Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and beefing up investments in education to try to elevate more into the middle class.
“To those who would write those premature obituaries of the American Dream, the American Dream is not dead. The American Dream will not die because you and I are going to fight for it and make it true again,” O’Malley said, to applause.
AUDIO of O’Malley’s speech, 25:00
O’Malley urged Democrats to be “unabashed” defenders of the party’s “moral principles.”
“Triangulation is not a strategy that will move America forward,” O’Malley said. “History celebrates profiles in courage, not profiles in convenience.”
O’Malley has had these two sentences in his stump speech since February. It’s a clear line of attack against the Clintons who have been criticized by some fellow Democrats for practicing “triangulation” to push the Democratic Party toward more centrist views. Two men who will work on Hillary Clinton’s Iowa campaign attended tonight’s event, but neither would confirm rumors that Clinton will formally announce her candidacy this weekend and visit Iowa early next week.