DES MOINES — Hillary Clinton’s closing rally before the Iowa caucuses was primed to counter any perception that her campaign lacked enthusiasm, energy or passion.
Before a crowd of more than 2,500 who filled the gymnasium of Abraham Lincoln High School, Clinton, joined by her husband Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, sounded about an octave higher as she slammed Republicans for seeking “collective amnesia” when it came to the economy, while trying to out-do even Bernie Sanders when it comes to taking on Wall Street.
“They are running ads against me right here in Iowa,” she said, referring to a financial sector she says she will go even further than Sanders and Martin O’Malley to rein in, promising new regulations on “shadow” banking.
Clinton is contending with the surprise strength of Sanders, who is just a few points behind her, according to the latest Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll. A Clinton loss here, along with another in New Hampshire next week, would raise the prospect of a drawn out primary season, or shades of what happened in 2008.
But she has a more extensive field operation in the state than Sanders. Supporters from around the country have come to volunteer, including a contingent of Los Angeles donors. Some say they are less worried now, at the end of the weekend, than they were at the start.
At the rally, supporters waved signs saying, “Fighting for us,” while Clinton spent a great deal of her speech trying to convey the sense that she was better prepared to go on offense against whoever is her GOP rival, as well an array of other foes, like the gun lobby, or those out to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
She called GOP candidates’ standard response to questions about the existence of man-made climate change — “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist” — a “charade.”
“They aren’t ill-informed; they just won’t cross the Koch Brothers,” she said, invoking the billionaire industrialist donors who are a favorite Democratic target.
In the crowd was Barney Frank, who along with Chris Dodd co-authored the Dodd-Frank financial reform package. She introduced him when talking about the issue of too-big-to-fail banks. Rather than pursue legislation to break up the banks should there be the danger of another financial collapse, Clinton said that it could be done within the parameters of the Dodd-Frank law.
She defended her wonkishness, noting that her policy-heavy speeches are what is needed given that when it comes to a campaign, “this is a job interview.”
She didn’t name Sanders, but the contrast was apparent. “I will not raise middle class taxes,” she said, in an effort to contrast with Sanders, who last week said that he would raise taxes. He invited contrasts to Walter Mondale, who as the Democratic nominee in 1984 said he would raise taxes and went on to a crushing defeat.
“There are certain people who are ‘feeling the Bern.’ Today, she was on fire, and we ‘felt the burn’ in a different way,” said Jon Vein, who has been raising money for Clinton in Los Angeles along with his wife, producer Ellen Goldsmith-Vein.
He is here along with other fundraisers from Southern California, including Sim Farar and David Wolf.
Wolf noted what Clinton said about health care, and the need to improve the Affordable Care Act rather than risk dismantling it by pursuing single-payer healthcare. Sanders is a champion of a system he refers to as “Medicare for all.”
“I thought she was much more passionate, and sort of fired up when she talked about the need to get these things done now and we just can’t wait for a Democratic huge supermajority to pass things like single-payer,” he said.
Also at the rally was John Bauman, of Sha Na Na fame (he was Bowser), who said that he had been volunteering for the past three weeks from Cedar Rapids.
The three Clintons worked the rope line for about 20 minutes after her speech. But in contrast to eight years ago, they got into few conversations with these prospective caucusgoers. Instead, they were asked to pose for selfie after selfie.