Iowa Democrats gave a warm welcome Sunday to Hillary Rodham Clinton at retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual fundraiser. But not all party loyalists from the early-voting state were ready to hand her the 2016 presidential nomination just yet.
Bill and Hillary Clinton were the keynote speakers at the final Harkin Steak Fry on the hot-air balloon grounds outside Indianola, south of Des Moines. The event served as an emotional commemoration of Harkin’s 40 years in Congress and a rallying cry for Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections.
Hillary Clinton has not been in Iowa since her 2008 caucus loss to now-President Barack Obama. Harkin dubbed the Clintons the “comeback couple,” though he has not said if he would endorse Clinton if she runs, saying he wants her to make her decision first.
Clinton played coy on her 2016 plans, telling the crowd, “I am thinking about it.” She concluded by saying, “It’s really great to be back, let’s not let another seven years go by.”
Here are some reactions from Iowa Democrats:
Ken Acuff, 71, of Pilot Mound, said he supported Joe Biden in 2008 before switching to Obama. He said he would like to see Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the primary as well.
“I’d like to see both of them get into it. At least we get a primary, energize the base.” Of Clinton’s remarks, he said, “I think she has an honest feeling for us in the middle class.” But he stressed: “I’m not sold on just one candidate. I don’t think one candidate brings out the good in anything.”
Jeromy Brown, 41, attended with his wife, Sarah, 35, and 3-year-old son Fletcher. The couple lives in Creston and plans to support Clinton should she run. They backed Obama in 2008, though they were not living in Iowa at the time.
“We were hoping we would be there for her announcement. It would have been great. … I think Clinton is the perfect person to continue Obama’s legacy. It’s good to know where her heart is, that she is a champion for the middle class.”
Brenda Brink, 57, of Huxley, supported Obama in 2008 and was decked out in clothing supporting Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“Elizabeth Warren is looking out for people like me. I see (Clinton) more as a ‘been there, done that.’ We need someone to inspire. … I think we need a candidate with less alignment to the status quo.”
On the speech, she said: “She was pretty metered and pretty uninspired. I was at the Warren booth after and so many people came up and said, ‘Yeah, Hillary, but I love Elizabeth Warren.’ It’s the same tired stuff. Everyone says middle class. What about the working poor?”
Scott Christen, 29, of Des Moines, supported Clinton at the 2008 Iowa caucuses and plans to back her again if she runs.
“I’ve always supported her and her husband. … Minimum wage is a big deal to me. There’s no way you can live on $15,000 a year. … She did tease (a run). She’ll run eventually.”
Dick Furinash, 78, of Liberty Center, said he had been a supporter of both Clintons since Bill Clinton’s first campaign. He was toting cardboard cutouts of the couple that dated to Bill Clinton’s first bid for president.
“I’ve been a Clinton supporter ever since I’ve been on the earth. She’d better run. She’s smarter than any politician we’ve got in Washington, D.C. I don’t have to worry about her, she always knows what she’s (doing).”
Ellen Adelman, 71, of Des Moines, supported Clinton in 2008 and came out to the Steak Fry to see Hillary. Her last Steak Fry was in 1992, when Bill Clinton appeared.
“I’ve been ready for her to run since Bill was elected. I love her diplomatic (background). … It’s time to bring the glass ceiling down once and for all. … She’s been doing good work, she’s been getting ready.”