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Clintons at Harkin Steak Fry

August 18, 2014 - Mike Donahey

“Bill and Hilary Rodham Clinton will headline the annual steak fry for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin in Indianola Sept. 14, making a big return to the leadoff caucus state as the former secretary state considers another presidential campaign.”

That was the lead from an Associated Press story Monday.

The announcement, coupled with criticism of the Iowa Caucus system in her book “Hard Choices,” along with barbs at President Obama’s foreign policy in a August Atlantic Monthly story, has this writer and others in the Times-Republican newsroom convinced Hilary Clinton is running for president.

It will be the former first lady’s first appearance in Iowa since 2008, when she finished a disappointing third in the caucuses behind Barack Obama and John Edwards.

And the ignominious defeat will remain a thorn in her side until she can claim a victory in the 2016 caucus.

Clinton, once the prohibitive front-runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination, never fully recovered from her Iowa setback, according to pundits.

Even before her 2008 defeat, Clinton and her political allies were critical of the caucuses, saying the restricted hours and long duration prevented many of her backers — especially blue-collar workers — from participating. At one point, her campaign considered avoiding Iowa entirely.

“You know, there were a lot of people who couldn’t caucus tonight, despite the large turnout,” Clinton said in her concession speech. “They are in Iraq or Afghanistan or somewhere else serving our country.”

However, Clinton can already claim a victory of sorts because Iowa Democrats have already responded to comments in her book and are discussing changes.

They include the use of absentee ballots and online voting, allowing those physically absent to participate in the caucuses, which typically occur on a winter’s weekday night and lasts for hours.

Additionally, party business must be conducted first.

Only afterwards do participants get to vote for their presidential preference, which they do openly, often amid spirited discussion. Success requires not only organizational skill on the part of a campaign but a great deal of patience on the part of a candidate’s supporters and — not least — their ability to show up and remain throughout the evening.

“As Democrats, we’re always looking for ways to expand the electorate,” Scott Brennan, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said in an interview last month. He described the review as the sort of evaluation that takes place after every election cycle, asking, “Is there something else we can do to make (the caucuses) better?”



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