For months we’ve heard time and again from the national press and many Iowa activists about how Hillary Clinton has an “Iowa Problem” and will likely run a presumptive campaign. They’ve said she’s arrogant for delaying an all-but-certain campaign so long. They’ve suggested she hates Iowa and might snub her nose at the caucus state that upended her campaign last time. Well on Sunday she became the first Democrat to officially declare a presidential campaign. And the first stop on her campaign tour? Iowa. Small town Iowa, in fact, for two low-key message events. Just saying.
Her introductory video announcing her run was very, very good. Borderline perfect. Clinton herself didn’t appear until about the 1:32 mark, preceded by Americans from a mix of backgrounds describing the new journeys they’re taking. The video was upbeat and aspirational, casting Clinton’s run for president as part of an American trek to building better lives and opportunities for families. It featured many young families, two Hispanic brothers starting a business, a mother looking to return to the workforce, a gay couple planning a wedding and three Iowans as well: Julie Stauch, Sean Bagniewski and Vidhya Reddy. The only critique I’ve heard that holds some relevance is that all of the people featured looked upper-middle or middle class.
It’s not just a slickly-made video that’s signaling a change in Clinton tactics. Her first scheduled events after announcing are in Monticello and Norwalk, Iowa. There she’s hosting message events with a small invited crowd for education and business roundtable discussions. Her campaign indicated there won’t be any major rallies until sometime in May. She’ll almost certainly also be meeting with small groups of Democratic activists on the Iowa swing as well. And to get there, she’ll be road-tripping it to Iowa in a van nicknamed “Scooby.” Meanwhile, her Iowa campaign is already gearing up, having quietly met for a staff training over the weekend at a Des Moines office building just outside of downtown on Saturday and Sunday. It sounds like a large operation, with dozens of staffers on board already, signaling a very strong commitment to fight for Iowa caucus-goers’ vote.
The entire roll-out is a welcome and encouraging sign. Doing smaller events at first will prove an interesting balancing act considering there’s about 500 reporters who’d like to attend each one. But overall it should provide Clinton a chance to have actual conversations with voters. The video’s message speaks directly to voters, putting the focus on the concerns of real people’s lives, instead of the candidate. And driving to Iowa in a van? That’s not just smart or strategic. That’s downright fun.
Actually, Clinton’s 2.0 launch has been so good (so far anyway) that it begs the question: what the hell was so hard about that, Clinton 2008 advisers? Seriously, Clinton and her prospect of being the first female president should make it easy to portray her candidacy as motivational and historic. Her real personality can shine through when it’s actually allowed to. And is it really campaign rocket science to figure out you should make your campaign about the voters, and not about yourself (“I’m in, and I’m in to win”)? Obviously it’s still extremely early, and who knows how everything will play out. But Democrats everywhere must have breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday upon realizing that their most likely nominee has a much better campaign operation this time around.
No doubt the impressive re-brand will not satisfy all of Clinton’s critics in the party, nor should it. But hopefully it will at least end the fantasy so many harp on that she thinks she’s getting a coronation or that she hates Iowa. There’s legitimate arguments to be made by Democrats against another Clinton presidency. Perhaps now we’ll hear more about their concerns on the issues than the imagined falsehoods about her personality.
Also of note that Paul Deaton pointed out – her top campaign adviser, John Podesta, sent out a tweet highlighting the campaign’s issue focus, which included climate change and clean energy. That isn’t always in the top priorities when a major candidate launches their campaign, and will make a lot of environmental-minded Democrats very excited.
Helping working families succeed, building small businesses, tackling climate change & clean energy. Top of the agenda. #Hillary2016
— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) April 12, 2015
by Pat Rynard