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Clinton: Ernst avoids 'tough questions'
00:44 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: At a second event of the day, Hillary Clinton jokingly hints at her presidential ambitions

Clinton slams Senate hopeful Joni Ernst for not attending newspaper editorial meeting

Democrat Bruce Braley "has been willing to do this and his opponent has not," Clinton says

Cedar Rapids, Iowa CNN  — 

Hillary Clinton swiped at Republican Senate hopeful Joni Ernst on Wednesday for canceling a meeting with the Des Moines Register editorial board last week, telling a labor audience that not answering “tough questions” is “disqualifying” in the state.

“I have concluded that Iowans take politics really seriously,” Clinton said. “You test your candidates, you actually force them to be the best they can be and they have to be willing to answer the tough questions.”

Democrat Bruce Braley “has been willing to do this, and his opponent has not,” she said.

“It truly seems like it should be in disqualifying in Iowa of all states to avoid answering questions,” Clinton added to a sustained round of applause.

Joni Ernst defends skipping Des Moines Register meeting

Of course, the comment could extend beyond the Iowa Senate campaign. Clinton has acknowledged she is thinking about running for president, and many in Iowa think she will decide to run. Should she do so, she will be asked a number of difficult questions from Iowa voters and journalists.

At her second event in Iowa on Wednesday, a rally in Davenport, Clinton repeated the line with a slight variation.

“Not in Iowa do people get away from asking tough questions,” Clinton said, before adding, “Except questions that are far in the future.”

The line got the crowd laughing and Clinton responded with a slight smirk, acknowledging she was referencing her presidential ambitions.

“Only one candidate in this race answers your questions,” Clinton added. “Don’t let anybody in this campaign … hide behind outside money and negative adds. That is not the Iowa way.”

Clinton also knocked Ernst, a female candidate, as someone who didn’t stand with women because her stances on reproductive rights.

“It is not enough to be a woman,” Clinton, the prohibitive favorite for her party’s nomination in 2016, said of Ernst, “You have to be committed to expanding rights and opportunities for all women.”