Monday, August 18, 2014

Hillary to Iowa. Now what?

Yes. I KNOW.

I haven't been forwarded as many copies of the same story since Al and Tipper Gore split and the Onion depicted Al listening to Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics albums.

So Hillary Clinton has at last scheduled an event in Iowa. Assuming she and Bill land on the morning of September 14 to motorcade from the Des Moines airport to Indianola for the very last Harkin Steak Fry, it will be 2,446 days since her last step in Iowa on Caucus Night 2008.

Am I finally satisfied? Am I finally going to shut up about how much Hillary hates Iowa?

It's a good first step. And it exactly parallels Barack Obama's first Iowa visit of the 2008 cycle, at the `06 Steak Fry. (Though other candidates and potential candidates had been here earlier.)
But it's ONLY a first step, and it's far less than a real commitment to a genuine, retail, Iowa caucus campaign.

It's not quite my nightmare vision of a big distant airport rally. But it's close: a large staged event, almost certainly with no public Q and A. A real caucus event means some risk: a tough non-planted question about Palestine or Iraq or the finance industry or marriage equality or the drug war or climate change. The actual answers to those questions, whenever they do get asked, will also matter.

The Clintons will work the rope line, sure. But that's a touch the hem of her garment interaction, not a real chance for a reasoned critique. Any questions will be rushed and only overheard by the press with some luck and some blocking skill. (The media scrum will be insane.)

Speaking of the press corps: Is an opportunity for in-state media to meet with the Clintons on the agenda? (I'm sure an opportunity for high-dollar donors is.) Will we get to ask some questions? That was often lacking in 2007, and it'd be a nice second step toward peace with Iowa, following this first step of showing up.

The third step I would like to see out of this visit would be an in-speech positive reference to the Iowa caucuses, some statement about us staying first and some hint that "if" (ha ha) she runs she's all in.

And finally, I'd like to see a second and third and fourth trip, to help further down the ballot, like the Republican candidates are doing.

This development leaves me cautiously optimistic. Making it a joint event with Clinton 42 is a slight hedge of the bet, though as an event it's a nice plus. But Bill plus Hillary feels like Harkin valedictory, whereas Hillary alone would feel even more like 2016.

I'm still hoping for more. But for now: Welcome to Iowa, Hillary, and welcome back, Bill.

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