Hillary Clinton impresses Iowa lawmakers

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)Word that Hillary Clinton was coming to the Iowa Capitol traveled fast.

By the time the Democratic presidential hopeful arrived at the golden-domed building in Des Moines, she was met by more than 100 people, a mix of school students on tours, legislative pages relived of their duty and reporters eager to ask her questions.
Clinton -- who told reporters she was "having a great time" and was "excited to be back" -- waved to the line of school students as she moved into the capital rotunda. When she approached the room of waiting Iowa Democratic lawmakers, Clinton began to shake hands and take selfies.
"Excited to caucus for you," one woman said as she shook Clinton's hand.
    "I need you," Clinton responded.
    "Yes, you bet. I am ready," the woman said, pointing at the former secretary of state.
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    Inside the room -- which was closed to the press -- Clinton was impressive, according a number of lawmakers interviewed after the meeting.
    She spoke about immigration reform, universal pre-kindergarten and the need to "stop the divisiveness" in Washington, the lawmakers said.
    One of her biggest applause lines, according to state Sen. Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls, was when she promised to help rebuild the Iowa Democratic Party, an organization that suffered big losses in 2010 and 2014.
    Nancy Dunkel, a state House Democrat from Dubuque County, said that she went into the meeting unsure of whether she was ready to support Clinton's candidacy. She had met former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley a few weeks before and said he, too, was impressive.
    Dunkel said though that after hearing Clinton speak she said she was ready to endorse.
    I wanted to make sure she was "singing out of the same song book that we are singing out of in my district," said Dunkel.
    Clinton took no questions inside the room, according the Democrats leaving the meeting, but mingled one-on-one with people and posed for a number of pictures.
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    State Rep. Scott Ourth from Ackworth, Iowa, said he enjoyed the meeting with Clinton, especially when she spoke about making sure every child in America has access to pre-kindergarten.
    O'Malley hosted a fundraiser for Ourth earlier this month. When asked if he endorsed Clinton's run or was moved closer to an endorsement by her appearance, Ourth demurred.
    "The field has yet to evolve," he said, noting his long friendship with the former Maryland governor.
    Flanked by aides, including Iowa campaign manager Matt Paul, the former secretary of state left the meeting and declined to answer a question from CNN about what has changed for her -- and in Iowa -- since she finished third in the state's 2008 Democratic presidential caucus.
    Clinton's visit to the statehouse came after she held a roundtable with small business owners at a fruit wholesaler outside of Des Moines on her second day campaigning as a declared candidate. The event was tiny: Save Clinton, her staff and the press, there were only 16 seats for Iowans invited to the event.
    Clinton's campaign is embracing the go-small strategy, arguing that it gives her a chance to listen to people's concerns before standing before them with "all the answers."
    The strategy has led some to critique her for not presenting concrete policy answers to questions people are raising. The former secretary of state looked to subtly rebuff those claims on Wednesday.
    "Before I roll out my policies, I want to hear from people who are on the front lines," she said at the start of the event.
    Campaign aides have said that Clinton is about a month away from rolling out specific policy prescriptions.
    The business owners echoed Clinton on a number of issues during the panel, including education spending, family issues and paid time off.
    "Wow, you are so on my wavelength," Clinton said after Katie Stocking, the owner of a Des Moines web design company, said that after she had a baby, she "realized how just incredibly difficult it is to balance everything."
    The conversation as not all benign for Clinton, though.
    One business owner complained about how their "over 40%" tax rate can be "very difficult" to handle.
    Brendan Comito, the chief operating officer of Capital City Fruit also lamented about healthcare coasts going up and how he is worried his "employees won't be able to afford [coverage]."
    In response to the comment, Clinton defended the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- but added it is important to build on "what works" from the law.
    Clinton and her staff plan to spend the night in Iowa on Wednesday and leave for New York -- where her campaign is headquartered -- on Thursday morning. After driving to Iowa in a van she calls 'Scooby,' an aide said Clinton will be flying back on a commercial flight.