Iowa Democrats eager to hear from elusive Clinton
Potential ’16 rivals get aggressive
Democratic officials in Iowa are increasingly antsy to hear from Hillary Rodham Clinton on the campaign trail and are pressuring her to get out and about even as the undisputed front-runner for her party’s nomination hunkers down and waits for scandals to blow over.
Mrs. Clinton hasn’t set foot in the Hawkeye State since the Tom Harkin steak fry in September, an annual political event where she made amends with voters who opted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential caucuses and hinted at a comeback run. She has made only a handful of public appearances anywhere.
Dan Fredrichs, Democratic Party chairman for Iowa’s Boone County, said he wants to hear from Mrs. Clinton “sooner rather than later.”
He voiced confidence in Mrs. Clinton’s ability to win, noting her massive lead in polls over potential Democratic rivals and leads in matchups against every likely Republican contender.
“We know that we have a viable, winnable candidate and so on, but we encourage her to put her toe in the water so that we can get to know her better as a candidate,” he said.
Mr. Fredrichs said he talked with Mrs. Clinton at the steak fry and was impressed with her ability to engage in retail politicking, a must for Iowa’s first-in-the-country nominating contest where Mrs. Clinton struggled in 2008.
“The thing about Iowa is that your message has to be true,” he said. “She has to share with Iowans their values and beliefs and speak with a genuine voice so that we can say, ‘That is what we think Hillary will do for the state of Iowa and every state beyond.’”
Cedar County Democratic Party Chairman Larry Hodgden said he is eager for Mrs. Clinton to come forward and reveal her agenda, which he said remains a secret.
“We know what she’s done in the past, but elections for president are about the future and we need to know what Hillary Clinton wants to bring to the contest, what issues she is gong to work hard for and whether they are issues that the progressives like me feel need to be addressed,” he said. “Is she going to stand up to Wall Street, is she going to stand up to the big banks and do something about the rising inequality in this nation?”
As other potential Democratic contenders jockey for position this year, Mrs. Clinton has provided only vague references to adopting a more liberal agenda by using catchphrases such as “income inequality.”
She has skirted questions about her exclusive use of private email for official business as secretary of state, saying she did because it was convenient to mingle personal and official communications. She also has kept quiet about revelations that the Clinton Foundation pocketed foreign donations while she was secretary of state and a federal cronyism scandal that involved her brother, Anthony Rodham, and two of her close political allies, current Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell.
The controversies likely forced Mrs. Clinton to delay the announcement of her presidential run, according to Democratic strategists.
Still, her absence from the campaign trail runs the risk of emboldening her rivals.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has aggressively laid the groundwork in Iowa and New Hampshire for a presidential run, took a jab Sunday at Mrs. Clinton and likely Republican contender Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor, saying the presidency isn’t a “crown to be passed between two families.”
It was the first sign that Mrs. Clinton could face another brutal primary race as she did in 2008 against Mr. Obama.
“I think she will have to get out [and campaign] soon,” said Susie Drish, Democratic Party chairwoman of Jefferson County, Iowa. “Give us something to get excited about. It’s like when you tell a little kid Christmas is coming. OK, when is Christmas coming?”
Mr. Hodgden said the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses appear to be Mrs. Clinton’s to lose, but she needs to fight for a victory.
“It’s all up to Hillary, and it’s up to how they all campaign and reach out to Iowans and the message they want to bring to us,” Mr. Hodgden said.
In New Hampshire, home of the second nominating contest and the nation’s first primary election, the party activists mostly agreed with Mrs. Clinton’s take-it-slow strategy and said they were ready to wait as long as it takes for her to shift into campaign mode.
“She is so well-known that it doesn’t matter,” said Bert Weiss, New Hampshire Democratic Party town chairman for Chatham. “It would be stupid for her to get out there and say something stupid.”
This article is based in part on wire service reports.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hasn’t been to Iowa since the Tom Harkin steak fry in September, an annual event where she made amends with voters who opted for Barack Obama in the 2008 caucuses and hinted at a comeback run. She has made only a handful of public appearances anywhere.