Hillary Clinton wrapped up a New Year's Day of Iowa campaigning with a rally for about 500 in downtown Iowa City.
It's 9:20 and if I'm gonna pay 10 bucks for a connection I'm gonna liveblog. The staffer is stretching for time with a Hillary trivia contest.
The downstairs Sheraton ballroom is full with about 500. I'm attempting to start a rumor that the rally is being moved outside to the Ped Mall, but no one's biting. The TURN UP THE HEAT signs are welcome on this cold night.
Are Iowans spoiled by all this attention? "Yes," says John Moore of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. He and his wife Kate, and some friends from Westby, Wisconsin, are in Iowa City for a couple days to catch as many candidates as possible in advance of Wisconsin's Tsunami Tuesday primary. "We're here to listen," said Kate; they hope to see Biden, Edwards and Obama tomorrow. John proposes a more fair system than Iowa First: "Let me elect the president."
Bev Jones of Iowa City is a caucus vet and still undecided: "I like whoever I saw last," she says.
The crowd is kid-heavier than most events, and they're reacting very enthusiastically to a t-shirt tossing staffer. He asks us to turn off our cell phones; what if Rudy Giuliani's wife calls?
The karaoke soul singer who started the show, replaced with Lenny Kravitz and "Are You Gonna Go My Way."
9:31 and HRC is on, with Chelsea and the local legislators Vicki Lensing and Mary Mascher. Didn't know Chelsea was on this leg of the tour. Wonder if I can get a quote? Naaaah.
The national touring press corps crunches in loudly and comes close to crushing my itty bity camera, as Mascher and Lensing handle the intros. (Nationals travel with the campaign, the locals show up early.) Lensing turns it over using the R word: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton." I thought just the AP styleook still used Rodham.
HRC intros Tom Vilsack, just kinda lurking along the sides. She references her last Johnson County event: "The fire marshal shut us down, there were 300 people outside freezing, we couldn't convince anybody to let them in."
Hillary's silent partners: Tom Vilsack, Chelsea Clinton
Into the main body of the speech, listing the domestic issue laundry list. Uses the demanding vs. hoping vs. working for change line. Vilsack looks on... wondering what might have been? Interesting that he's here but didn't take the stage.
She's keeping very close to the text and the slow, deliberate pace she kept a couple weeks ago in Coralville: walking through the Children's Defense Fund and health care. "A lot of people who don't know me have a lot to say about me," she says to knowing laughter. There's maybe a little more about her international travel as first lady: "In fact I went to Northern Ireland more than my husband did." A minor adjustment.
"Yes, we have the strongest military in the world, but that is not the source of our strength." This goes, not to the war, but to domestic work in the Senate. Loudest applause thus far goes to pledge to never never never privatize Social Security.
At the end of the long policy road, we hear: "I'm not asking you to take me on faith. I'm asking you to look at the record." Defines self as "a modern progressive -- that is what I am, that is what I believe in." I'm not sure how a "modern" progressive varies from any of the other senses of the word -- a Bull Moose Progressive, a Fighting Bob LaFollette Progressive, a Henry Wallace Progressive? -- but it's a launching pad for more health care. A health care plan that does not cover everybody "will be eaten alive, it will give aid and comfort to the Republicans."
40 minutes since the intro began and still no mention of the war, as she discusses tax fairness and fiscal responsibility.
"When I talk about the economy of the 90's my opponents say there she goes again. I'm talking about what happend 10 years ago! It is within living memory." Says Bush's greatest failing is "governing by fear." At least tangentially related to the war, but secondary to the war itself. She moves on to energy independece, citing the list of biofuels. Says that when she takes offices the oil companies will be so scared they'll drop the prices to take the heat off.
45 minutes in and we have education. As usual for all candidates, ending No Child Left Behind is the big applause line. Easier financial aid forms also gets a lot of applause.
50 minutes in we get to the war. We hear "withdraw our troops as quickly and as responsibly as we can" again. But now it begins within 60 days. She raises the image of those of us who want to "do it yesterday." "Withdrawing troops is dangerous. You know, we have to secure the exit routes, we have to bring our equipment out. You also have to worry about the civilians and the Iraqis who sided with America. America has to protest those who tried to serve us." Also says planning hasn't started because Bush admin won't cooperate. Ultimately, a one to two brigade a month pace. Much more on this subject than she offered a couple weeks ago. But still focuses much more on The Troops and The Vets.
Winding down and returning to the hard work theme. "You'll be standing up for those who can't be at their caucuses." The troops can't be at the caucuses, she notes, shift workers can't be there.
Makes her electability argument against the GOP attack machine: "I've been on the receiving end of their fire for 16 years now, and much to their dismay I'm still here."
Things wrap at the hour and three minute mark with BTO and "Taking Care of Business," which makes me want to buy office supplies. Then We have Top Petty's "American Girl" (subtle) which makes me think Hannibal Lecter is attacking.
HRC is in the handshake scrum, SS watching closely. This is the point at an Edwards event at which they'd be telling us where the very short press availability would be. Instead, Team Hillary offers the press corps some pizza. I'd trade the slice of sausage for some availability, but the pizza hasn;t compromised my objectivity.