Hillary Clinton spent another day not fielding a single question on Monday, a sign that she does not intend to take the bait from her Republican rivals and other critics who have called on her to give more concrete answers on the campaign trail.
Clinton, who spoke to about 60 voters at a house party here, instead cast herself as experienced and prepared. It was a subtle knock to Republicans who have struggled to answer questions on Iraq and other foreign policy issues.
“I am going into this race with my eyes wide open about how hard it is to be president of the United States,” she said. “I have a little experience about that and I have to tell you, I find it very reassuring because I do have that experience to know what is possible and how best to proceed.”
Clinton said now is “not a time for easy answers, for glib answers, or one liners or applause lines.”
“Those are all great, that is part of campaigning, but at the end of the day, we need a president who has both the experience and the understanding to deal with the complexity of the problems we face,” she said.
Cinton’s campaign aides hoped Monday’s event would showcase their focus on moving the more than 70% of Democrats who supported other candidates in 2008 – particularly then-Sens. Barack Obama and John Edwards – to Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Clinton has promised to build on President Barack Obama’s work – and in some ways – go further than he has.
“We aren’t running yet, but we are on our feet,” Clinton said about rebuilding the economy after the recession in 2008 and 2009. She said she was grateful for the hard decisions Obama had to make on the economy and that she would “fight to protect the Affordable Care Act,” Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
But Clinton also cast herself as a new candidate, promising – as she regularly does – to fix the “problems” with Obamacare and to get “unaccountable, dark money” out of politics.
The former first lady said she would “appoint Supreme Court justices who will protect the right to vote and not the right of billionaires to buy elections.”
Clinton’s Iowa operation has a total of 27 field organizers on the ground in Iowa, six regional organizing directors and 21 organizers who live in cities and towns across the state. So far, according to campaign aides, their focus has been on reconnecting with Clinton supporters from 2008, winning over those who rejected her first presidential bid and connecting with those young people and students who are new to the state.
Monday’s event in Mason City, which was hosted by Dean Genth and Gary Swenson, is an example of Clinton’s campaign looking to target former Obama supporters.
Genth and Swenson were the first gay couple to receive a marriage license at the Cerro Gordo County Courthouse when same-sex marriage was legalized in the state in April 2009. During the 2008 caucus, both were outspoken and early Obama supporters. They housed Obama campaign staff and volunteers in their Mason City home and told Obama’s campaign office in Chicago that they would be willing to do whatever they could to get the senator elected.
“We were supportive of Clinton but we actually caucused for Obama,” Genth said Monday. “As the caucus campaigning went on we got really involved with the Obama campaign. It was more a function that we were so early on with Obama, we had already pitched out tent at that point.”
A former business executive, Genth moved from Ohio to Iowa in 2003 after meeting Swenson, a radiologist and breast cancer specialist, in 2002. Genth said it was love at first sight. The two have long been activists for same-sex marriage and Genth is a member of One Iowa, the state’s leading LGBT rights organization, that spearheaded efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
Genth said that while Obama’s position on same-sex marriage was “not a determining factor” for their support in 2008, it did play a role.
“We definitely got signals from Obama where he stood on some of the basic principles and basic rights,” he said.
As a candidate in 2008, Clinton opposed same-sex marriage, supporting the idea of civil unions instead. She did not proclaim her personal support for same-sex marriage until 2013, after she left her diplomatic position as secretary of state.
Shortly after her announcing her presidential bid, her campaign said that Clinton now believes same-sex marriage is a “constitutional right,” a departure from her past statements. Clinton didn’t mention same-sex marriage in her remarks on Monday.
The steady change in her position hasn’t bothered Genth. “Some people seem to never evolve,” he said. “So somebody that does evolve is a great thing.”
Genth is the vice chairman of the Cerro Gordo County Democratic Party and has said he has “reached out to every Clinton campaign person that walks into the area or has a phone number” about getting the candidate to North Iowa as much as possible.
Clinton’s campaign aides have regularly said the candidate will focus on Iowa and come back regularly, but no future trips have been announced. Clinton will overnight in Iowa on Monday and headline an event on small business at a bike shop in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Tuesday.
The state of play in Iowa is also vastly different than it was in 2007 and 2008. Clinton leads every poll on the Democratic side and many activists in the state, despite hungering for a competitive primary, acknowledge that there isn’t a Barack Obama-like candidate that could come from behind to topple Clinton. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, is the only other declared candidate for the Democratic nomination, although former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to announce his run later this month.
In an effort to showcase their grassroots organizing efforts, Sarah Marino, the campaign’s Mason City grassroots organizer, will introduce Clinton at the event on Monday.