For the last year or so, no one professed to love Iowa and the nominating process more than Hillary Rodham Clinton. She told Iowans how much she appreciated their state. She admired the serious way in which they examined all the candidates. She thought they were just the kind of people to help choose the Democratic nominee. So it was noticeable that, by the time the Clinton campaign touched down here in New Hampshire last week, she and her spurned aides had begun dissing Iowa and its role in the process.
“Iowa is so small, it’s like a mayor’s race in a medium-sized city,” Jay Carson, the campaign’s press secretary, scoffed to the Wall Street Journal. “It wouldn’t be wise to put too much emphasis on it.”
Now, as it happens, I know Jay Carson, and I know that he actually shares my affinity for Iowa’s small towns and idyllic landscapes. But this comment and others like it offer a window into the shocked emotional state of the Clinton campaign. It was on display in the debate Saturday night, when Mrs. Clinton, who until last Thursday had never met rejection at the hands of voters, showed a sudden flash of anger at having to defend her record as an agent of change.
Maybe this is just a consequence of the election calendar, which leaves so little time between contests. Even as Mrs. Clinton furiously campaigns in New Hampshire, you can see that she and her team remain mentally stuck in Iowa, unable to shake their resentment at the rebellion of a populace they had resolved to pacify. Reading those quotes, you can almost read the thoughts behind them.
Two hundred and twenty-five thousand voters? You call that caucusing? Be serious. Hillary’s walked precincts in Brooklyn with more voters than that. Her Christmas card list has more names than that. If you had a dollar for every caucus-goer in Iowa, you’d almost be able to pay Bill Clinton for a single speech. This wasn’t a caucus; it was a coffee klatch.
The Journal piece also quoted the campaign’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, as saying: “The worst thing would be to over count Iowa and its importance. Iowa doesn’t have a record of picking presidents.” This isn’t really fair; Iowans have, in fact, chosen the eventual nominees of both parties in the last three elections. But Penn was only doing what any good political strategist does when frustrated by the facts: attack the record. If Iowa wasn’t going to show its gratitude for such lavish attention from the campaign, then its credibility would have to be destroyed.
What more did you people want? Did the woman not slog through manure and fog? Did she not practically bathe in ethanol? We even paid for all those little shovels with Hillary’s name on them. That wasn’t cheap. Don’t even think about using them now. Next time there’s a blizzard, I guess you’ll just have to hope your way to the supermarket.
And by the way, did you not think the former president of the United States had more pressing things to do than traipse around Iowa admiring the windmills? Do you know how many kids in Africa went without medicine every time he spent an hour in Cedar Rapids? Do you know how many more kids became obese? Eight hundred and twenty-seven, that’s how many. That’s 827 fats kids on your conscience, Iowa. Know when Bill’s coming back next? How about never. They’ll be selling ethanol milk shakes at McDonald’s before you see that man again.
Of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters had never trusted Iowa. The party insiders who backed Mrs. Clinton said for months that Iowa wasn’t representative of the country, that it was too white and too rural to enjoy such influence on the nominating process. And of course, Iowa proved them right. It rejected the clear choice of the party’s urban base — and selected the black guy from Chicago instead. I guess this is just what happens when you let a few narrow-minded hayseeds go first.
O.K., Iowa, have it your way. Go harvest yourselves, for all we care. We’re moving on to a state that’s clamoring for a Madeleine Albright-Wesley Clark reunion. New Hampshire—now there’s a state about which we’ll never say an unkind word.
At least not until we land in South Carolina.