Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Hillary Clinton Iowa City stop

What the top of the story is depends on your perspective.
For the national press following Hillary Clinton around for a living, the top of today's story is Greece.

For the locals who showed up at the Iowa City Public Library, the story was "OMG She's HERE!!!1!" and "why didn't they get a bigger room?"

My perspective was strange: a local ringer in the back with the press as a hobby-journalist. I was almost as interested in what they were up to as the speech itself, and provided some local color. The detail they seemed most interested in was that I'd chaired my 2008 caucus in that very same room.

The locals were interested in that room, too. The staffers reported 350 bodies in the room, a bit more than the 315 I crammed in there on January 3, 2008. Anecdotally there were close to that many outside. 50 or so who waited got in for a quick hello after the 8 minute 8 second press conference, but some didn't get in at all, and there was a little grumbling.

The crowd that DID get in was a mix of old and young - with not much in between - and leaned about 60-40 female. It wasn't a very "downtown Iowa City" crowd. And it wasn't a tough crowd. All five of the people who got called on in Clinton's first Iowa Q and A of the cycle nearly bubbled with their support. I only saw a couple not yet committed elected folks on hand, and not a lot of the caucus curiosity seekers that I see at most events.

Clinton has a very different type of speech than main rival Bernie Sanders. She offers a long list of issues and touches as many bases as she can. Even the "Four Fights" framework is one more set of bullet points. Sanders ties everything into one overarching ideological framework. Clinton downplays ideology; speaking on education she said she wants to focus on what works rather than ideology.

There was a little local color as Clinton worked the Coral Ridge Mall shooting into the gun control section ("The gun lobby does not represent a majority of gun owners) and mentioning the closing of state mental hospitals, but did not mention last week's Terry Branstad veto of education funding.

In any national campaign, there's a tension between the locals and the "people at 30,000 feet." Clinton has a plan, and she's sticking to it: She wants to be seen as approachable and accessible, and the campaign wants human scale events. Sure, Bernie Sanders is racking up YOOGE crowds. But that's his strategy to use crowd size as a bragging point, not hers.

But paradoxically, being MORE accessible in terms of a small room makes you LESS accessible in terms of everyone getting in. Would you like to see your favorite band play a club gig? Sure. But for a club gig to work you have to have a club gig size crowd.

UPDATE: Video of press conference from inside the press scrum.

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