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Prominent Clinton backer criticizes Iowa caucuses

  • Story Highlights
  • Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland says Iowa caucus process "makes no sense"
  • Clinton campaign quickly distances her from those remarks
  • The New York senator will be in Iowa on caucus night, spokesman says
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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (CNN) -- Days before the Iowa caucuses, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter criticized the state's privileged role in the presidential nominating process, forcing her campaign to declare she did not agree.

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Hillary Clinton campaigns at an elementary school Sunday in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland told The Columbus Dispatch it "makes no sense" to grant Iowa the right to hold the first presidential contest.

He called the GOP and Democratic caucuses "hugely undemocratic," because the process "excludes so many people."

"I'd like to see both parties say, 'We're going to bring this to an end,'" Strickland said in Sunday's edition of the newspaper.

Strickland has made three trips to Iowa on behalf of Clinton, the paper reported.

Competing campaigns seized on the article and e-mailed it to reporters Sunday night to highlight Strickland's comments.

The Clinton campaign issued a statement shortly after midnight, distancing the New York senator from the governor's remarks.

"Senator Clinton has worked her heart out campaigning in Iowa because she knows it plays a unique and special role in the nominating process and that process must be protected," the statement said. "As she has said many times she is glad Iowans are entrusted with this responsibility because they take it so seriously. On this issue Hillary and Gov. Strickland strongly disagree."

Strickland's comments came on the same day that WHO-TV reporter Dave Price reported that Clinton's Midwest co-chair, Jerry Crawford, told him that Clinton would "not be here caucus night."

Price said in the report posted at http://whoiapolitics.blogspot.com that Crawford told him it was because she "needs to get to New Hampshire."

In an interview with CNN, Crawford denied making the statement to Price.

"There's no way I could have [said] she wouldn't be here, because I never even heard it discussed at the time," Crawford told CNN.

Instead, Crawford said Price asked him something along the lines of where the senator might be Thursday night, and he answered by saying he "wasn't sure who'd be in Iowa and who'd be in New Hampshire."

Asked at an event Sunday night in Cedar Rapids whether she planned to spend the night of January 3 in Iowa, Clinton first laughed and then told CNN, "I'm just trying to get through each day here."

Pressed to clarify that remark, Clinton said, "I've got to figure out what I'm doing."

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Clinton spokesman Jay Carson denied any notion that Clinton planned to leave Iowa early, calling it "totally and absolutely wrong."

"She is staying in Iowa until after caucus returns come back, and won't leave until late, late, late that night," Carson said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Chris Welch and Candy Crowley contributed to this report.

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