Iowa Isn’t That Important, Clinton Staffers Say


By: Wall Street Journal

Amy Chozick reports on the presidential race.

ON BOARD THE CLINTON PLANE — After pouring millions of dollars and nearly a year of effort into a win in Iowa, senior staffers for Democrat Hillary Clinton now say the state isn’t that important after all.

“The worst thing would be to over count Iowa and its importance,” said chief strategist Mark Penn, just hours after the New York senator finished in a disappointing third place, behind Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

“Iowa doesn’t have a record of picking presidents. We’re in a strong position to move forward,” Penn told a handful of reporters on board a chartered midnight flight that took Clinton staffers and such high-level supporters such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from Des Moines, Iowa, to Manchester, N.H.

That contradicts the huge gravitas Clinton put on the Iowa caucus in her recent stump speeches, evoking the process as a democratic gift in the wake of Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s death.

“The Iowa caucuses are such a unique part of American democracy. I am so impressed at how seriously everyone here in Iowa takes it,” she said at a recent event in Clarion. Iowans caucus for “our hopes and the possibilities America should have again.”

Campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said Clinton won’t be altering her message of change and experience in the coming primaries. She will, however, be putting more emphasis on so-called kitchen table issues like the economy and the housing crisis, which for some voters have surpassed the war in Iraq in importance.

Change is a buzz word all the Democrats have been running on this campaign. Clinton argues that her “35 years of experience” make her the best candidate to deliver it. But some voters see the Clinton machine and her experience in Washington as the antithesis of change. The message didn’t resonate with Iowa caucus goers, 37.6% of which supported Obama, while 29.7% caucused for Clinton. Edwards finished with 29.5%.

“We’ll push back hard that she’s a conventional Washington insider,” Penn said, “It takes experience to create change.” He says that in almost every election “you see people latch on to a seemingly fresh candidate and then they take a sobering look” at the bigger picture, referring to Obama.

Most people inside the Clinton camp are shrugging off Iowa all together. “Iowa is so small, it’s like a mayor’s race in a medium-sized city,” traveling press secretary Jay Carson said. “It wouldn’t be wise to put too much emphasis on it.”

The Clinton campaign has amassed nearly $120 million to fund its push through Feb. “We have the resources going forward,” McAuliffe says. “We’re going to be the nominee for the Democratic party. I feel as strongly about that now as ever.”

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