Monday, June 15, 2015

A Weekend In Hillaryland

Three Hillary Clinton tweetathons this weekend. You may have followed them in real time, but here's some overall impressions.

"Four Fights" is a good theme from the launch speech, if Clinton stays with it, which I think she will. There don't appear to be signs of multiple reboots ala 2007. Usually bullet points are limited to three, but four works with the alliteration, the throwback to FDR's Four Freedoms, and because it sounds like Foo Fighters. Which is probably more important than the FDR thing because, despite its evergreen appeal to the base, the youngest FDR voter is 92.

I know I've pledged neutrality, but I will endorse if she picks Dave Grohl as a running mate. Breaks his leg and finishes show is almost as good as Teddy Roosevelt getting shot and finishing the speech.

But grunge would be too explicit a throwback to Clinton 42, so musically Hillary sticks to verbal references to "Yesterday" and rally music from this list. Tom Petty is banished, in part because the line "God it's so painful when something that's so close is still so far out of reach" hits too close to home from 2008, and is replaced by Katy Perry who in a rarity for a rally playlist is an actual enthusiastic supporter.

"Roar" almost could have been written for a Hillary Clinton rally and ties into that "fighter" theme we'll keep hearing (Clinton-Grohl 2016. Think about it.) Other things we'll hear a lot: "I've been coloring my hair for years" (drink) and "youngest woman president" (drink).

The speech was much the same in Des Moines on Sunday to a crowd of - exact body count - 713, at the State Fairgrounds in front of a Patton size flag on Flag Day. Counters in the national press noted Bernie Sanders' slightly larger crowd on Friday night, and surprisingly there was some spare room in back.

Most of the crowd got lunch - Hy-Vee catered, very Iowan - and sat at picnic tables. Once the tables were full, late diners grabbed seats on the floor. In a great egalitarian touch, Senate finance chair Bob Dvorsky was one of the folks eating at a groundling seat while Sue Dvorsky - ex-party chair who is now Hillary Enthusiast Number One - worked the press area.

Things were a bit looser on press row than they were in late caucus season 2007; we were herded but not aggressively herded, and there were lots of friendly over the fence chats between press and Regular Iowans, which was discouraged last time.

There was also plenty of rope line time after the speech, 24 minutes by my clock. The people who were most dedicated and patient mostly managed to get their moment, and from my distance it looked like Hillary was spending Quality Time.

Other than her presence, Clinton made news twice in Iowa. In the biggest distinction between Saturday's speech and Sunday's, she discussed the Trans Pacific Partnership  at length. The tl;dr version: we need to see the details and by the way I'm a tough negotiator. Not quite a Bernie Sanders Hell No, but the more important question is whether it's enough to calm jangled nerves in union halls.

The other news she made was, well, news - doing sit-downs with two of the state's leading journalists, Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson and the Register's Jennifer Jacobs.

Brilliant move.  Not a shocking move, but strategically perfect. No one can complain that she's NOT doing interviews, can they? Yet doing interviews with state journalists means the priorities were different than the Beltway press corps' obsessions. No horse race, email, no Clinton Foundation donors, no Benghazi.  Now all the nationals can do as say "but you didn't talk to US."

Instead, Henderson and Jacobs focused on topics more interesting to an Iowa audience, and coincidentally (or not) more in line with Clinton's message. Jacobs focused on the trade proposal and the "eagerness" (Clinton's word) for a female president. Henderson also started with trade but in a 21 minute chat also touched on Iraq, universal pre-K, and what Clinton 42's role would be in a Clinton 45 administration (TBD).

And, in a move dear to my heart, Henderson asked a version of what I call The Existential Question:
Henderson: In 2008, members of the Clinton team, including Bill Clinton, had some concerns about the Caucus process…Are you comfortable with the process…and how does this feel different than it did eight years ago?

Clinton: I am very committed to competing in the Caucus system and I do think that the Democratic Party in Iowa has made some changes that will provide some greater opportunity for people who wish to express themselves in the Caucuses to be heard.
"Competing in the Caucus system" this time ≠ KEEPING the caucus system NEXT time. Notably, in the voting rights section of the speech, Clinton made references to second shift workers in troops in New York, but dropped them in Iowa.  Those references had been made in connection to criticism of the caucuses, both just before Iowa 2008 and after. So one one level, she's recognizing that concern, but on another level she's not saying I ♡ REALIGNMENT TIME either. Still hoping to follow up on this one.

In the Henderson interview, Clinton quickly moved from caucus process stuff to praising the organizers and their organizing, which was on display Saturday morning and evening in house parties across the state.

Iowa City had two - a speech watch at the library (I overslept and blogged the speech in my PJs in the basement, which is what we bloggers are supposed to do) and an evening event at the home of precinct captain Robin Chambers, which me and about 30 folks attended.

There were legislative endorsement rollouts at a lot of these - Bob Dvorsky is now Official and Vicki Lensing was also on hand - and a brief video hookup to the Sioux City party that Clinton attended. And there was pizza and of course a Sue Dvorsky pep talk. But more importantly there were lots and lots of clipboards and commit cards.

It may seem ironic, but at the field level, Hillary Clinton seems to be running the Barack Obama campaign. And why not - it worked. (Of course, the Barack Obama campaign was really just a fine tuned and improved Howard Dean campaign.)  

What's clear is that Team Hillary won't be making the top-heavy, top-down mistakes of 2007. And with the milestone of open to all now done, and the body count and media scrum proving managable, maybe those mid-size Q and A events will be possible.

No comments: