At first cattle call, Democrats hone name-free Clinton attacks

New Hampshire Democrats warily eyeing Hillary Clinton
New Hampshire Democrats warily eyeing Hillary Clinton

    JUST WATCHED

    New Hampshire Democrats warily eyeing Hillary Clinton

MUST WATCH

New Hampshire Democrats warily eyeing Hillary Clinton 02:13

Story highlights

  • The dinner was first event of the presidential campaign to include all five Democratic candidates
  • Hillary Clinton looked to sum the entire 15-person Republican field into one candidate: Donald Trump

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CNN)Hillary Clinton's opponents didn't have to use her name in order to launch attacks against the Democratic frontrunner at Friday night's Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame dinner.

The pluses and minuses of Clinton's frontrunner status were on full display at the dinner. The 1,300-person audience was largely dominated by Clinton supporters, who hooped and hollered throughout her speech. But the fact that she leads every national and state poll was also the reason her opponents honed all of their rhetorical fire against Clinton, not the four other Democrats in attendance.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was the most aggressive at targeting Clinton during the first event of the presidential campaign to include all five Democratic candidates -- O'Malley, Clinton, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
    The former Maryland governor sprinkled his speech with subtle knocks against positions Clinton has taken and areas where the governor's team feels she is weak.
    "We didn't just talk about it, we actually got it done," O'Malley said, casting himself as the only candidate with 15 years of executive experience. The line, while biographical, is also meant to knock Clinton, who O'Malley's campaign believes is all talk but no action when it comes to progressives issues.
    O'Malley also subtly knocked Clinton on minimum wage, trade and energy. "I am the first candidate but I am not the last" to call for a 100% clean electric grid by 2050, he said, seemingly alluding to the fact Clinton would not commit to climate change demands at an event Thursday in New Hampshire.
    Meet the progressives who want Hillary to 'feel the Bern'
    netroots nation progressive conference phoenix arizona bernie sanders hillary being moody origwx jm_00003322

      JUST WATCHED

      Meet the progressives who want Hillary to 'feel the Bern'

    MUST WATCH

    Meet the progressives who want Hillary to 'feel the Bern' 03:02
    On trade, O'Malley hit the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade law that was approved under President Bill Clinton's administration but is deplored by unions.
    "Many of you remember the return of NAFTA. It was nada," he said.
    Asked by CNN afterward whether the lines were directed at Clinton, O'Malley said, "No, they're directed at our country's future."
    He added later, "I'm offering my candidacy and I'm highlighting the things that I've done. And I hope each of the candidates will highlight the things that they have done. One of the things that I have done is accomplish many of the progressive goals and values that the rest of the field is committed to, and I don't doubt their sincerity ... but I actually have the experience in having gotten that done. That's a distinguishing characteristic that I offer, but it's up to the people to decide."
    Clinton, for her part, did not return the attacks, instead choosing to use her 15 minutes to describe the reason she was running, attack Republicans and stress the importance of building up the Democratic Party.
    "We Democrats are in the future business. But from the Republican candidates for president, we see the opposite," Clinton said. "Now they may have some fresh faces, but they are the party of the past."
    Clinton even reached back to Republicans of presidencies past, calling "trickle-down" economics "one of the worst ideas of the 1980s," one that is "right up there with New Coke, shoulder pads and big hair."
    "I lived through it," she said, "and there are photographs, and we are not going back to that."
    Clinton also looked to sum the entire 15-person Republican field into one candidate: Donald Trump, the businessman whose bombastic statements about Mexicans have revolted most Democrats and many Republicans. Calling him the "new Republican frontrunner" -- a nod to his standing in the polls -- Clinton said she was happy there is "finally a candidate whose hair gets more attention than mine."
    Her only mention of her Democratic opponents was at the top of her speech when she said she was happy to be there with "my fellow candidates."
    That was true for all candidates except for Webb, who notably complimented Sanders multiple times in his speech.
    "Bernie, you always fire me up," Webb said of the blunt independent senator.
    Webb told CNN after the speech that there was "no real strategy" to heralding Sanders.
    "I think Bernie Sanders raises a lot of good issues to be discussed," he said. "I wouldn't necessarily agree with all of his solutions."
    Webb noted in his speech that if he were president, he would have "never urged the invasion of Iraq." Clinton in 2002 voted to authorize military action in Iraq, a decision that hurt her mightily in her failed 2008 presidential bid.
    Webb also said he wouldn't have used "military force in Libya during what was called the 'Arab Spring.'" Clinton advocated military force in Libya while she was secretary of state.
    But O'Malley and Webb were not the only Democrats to knock Clinton.
    Going into the event, Clinton's aides anticipated that their candidate would draw much of the fire. After the speech, all said that they were surprised O'Malley didn't hit Clinton harder.
    And other Democrats knocked the frontrunner without naming her.
    Bernie Sanders: 'I don't want to psychoanalyze Donald Trump'
    Bernie Sanders on Donald Trump immigration La Raza question_00003203

      JUST WATCHED

      Bernie Sanders: 'I don't want to psychoanalyze Donald Trump'

    MUST WATCH

    Bernie Sanders: 'I don't want to psychoanalyze Donald Trump' 00:50
    Sanders, the candidate surging in the polls both nationally and in Iowa, did not attack Clinton. Around 200 supporters at 20 tables backed Sanders, who delivered a stump speech that promised universal health care, tuition-free college and a breakup of the big banks.
    Chafee opened the event, but only spoke for six minutes, less than half the 15 minutes allotted to each candidate.
    He used his speech to introduce himself to the audience and outline his views on climate, war and raising the minimum wage.
    He received a polite response, but nowhere near the excitement generated by Clinton, O'Malley and Sanders.
    The sheer fact that all Democrats were at Friday night's event was notable. Republicans have had cattle calls -- events that bring a high number of candidates -- nearly every week, but this was the first of the Democratic nomination fight.