Hillary Clinton officially launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president this weekend. On Sunday she wrapped up a two-day organizing tour of Iowa. An army of volunteers, clipboards in hand, began the hard work of lining up Democrats to come out and caucus for Clinton in February.
Doors were scheduled to open at 10:30 in the morning for an event at the Elwell Center at the state fairgrounds. Middle school English teacher Mike Sorenson from Fredericksburg was standing in line well before that on a cloudy humid day.
“Fredericksburg is three hours away,” Sorenson says. “I had to get up pretty early. I wanted to see what’s going on.”
What was going on was a rally attracting some 600 people to the fairgrounds. It was the first big campaign event in Iowa open to the public since Clinton announced her candidacy.
Clinton delivered much of the same speech in Des Moines she gave in New York City on Saturday, touching on climate change, immigration, health care, and gay rights, with a special emphasis on the struggles of the middle class.
Clinton says hedge fund managers, corporations, and banks have done very well.
“Do you have to wonder when does my hard work pay off?” Clinton asks. “When does my family stay ahead? I say now,” Clinton says to cheers and applause.
Clinton adds sometimes women have it the worst.
“It is way past time to end the outrage of so many women earning less than men on the job,” Clinton says, followed by one of the loudest cheers of the day.
Clinton is weaving gender into her message more than she did during her run for president in 2008.
“We will have an America where a father can tell his daughter, you can be anything you want to be,” Clinton says. “Even President of the United States,” Clinton adds, followed by loud applause.
But not everyone’s comfortable with emphasizing gender.
“I think that's a double-edged sword,” says Gretchen Stephens, a high-school math teacher from Carlisle.
She says for male voters, a female candidate is a potential obstacle to overcome.
“They see past the fact that she’s a woman in order to support her,” Stephens says.
One topic in Clinton's Des Moines speech that wasn't part of her address in New York concerns criticism from Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders over an international trade promotion bill President Obama is trying to get through Congress. Sanders and many Democrats say it’s bad for workers. Without coming down yes or no, Clinton says President Obama should try to make the bill better.
“The president should listen to and work with his allies in congress starting with Nancy Pelosi,” Clinton says.
Minority leader Pelosi helped block the bill in the House last week.
Over the weekend, some 56 house parties were held all across Iowa with Clinton appearing to the gatherings over the internet. Former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky was at one of the house parties in Iowa City.
Dvorsky was an Obama supporter, but she’s now in the Clinton camp. She says all those small gatherings in addition to the big rally should get the ground game in Iowa off to a good start.
“I think the rollout that culminated this weekend, I think it’s been a smart play,” Dvorsky says.
As the weeks go by, Clinton will have more competition. Both Bernie Sanders and Virginia Senator Jim Webb were also campaigning in Iowa on Sunday for the Democratic nomination for President.