In her book “Hard Choices,” Hillary Clinton wrote, “The night of the Iowa caucuses, when I placed third, was excruciating.”
Clinton might be surprised to know many Iowa activists and caucusgoers felt similarly regarding her 2008 campaign in the Hawkeye State.
While many Iowa Democrats had few qualms with the candidate, the same could not be said of the campaign or, to some extent, its staffers — especially strategist Mark Penn of the now infamous memo that advocated skipping Iowa.
Mistakes were made — frankly, too many to list here — but chief above them all was the steadfast refusal of the Clinton campaign to honor the tradition of visiting the early states. Perhaps this dread stemmed from earlier times, when Bill Clinton ignored Iowa in 1992 due to Tom Harkin being on the ballot. Nonetheless, from that point forward, the 2008 campaign was, as they say, death by a million paper cuts.
Iowans are generally forgiving folks, willing to allow candidate weaknesses in one area if they are overshadowed by strengths in others. We make exception to that policy, however, when a candidate or campaign refuses to engage in retail politics.
Iowans believe that no matter a candidate’s strength, leadership and experience, there needs to be person at the helm — someone willing to listen and engage others in small groupings. Someone who, in the words of Bill, can “feel your pain.”
The memories of 2008 have softened for us, Mrs. Clinton. We’ve watched as you have flexed your muscles on the international stage and have been impressed with your ability to connect.
But as Iowans, we need to see that connection in action. Our hope, if you are really considering a 2016 run, is that you have learned from your experience and come to Iowa intent on having true conversations about what matters to our state and the fine people in it.
We’d suggest sooner rather than later this time.
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