-- Chipotle. Gas Stations. Commercial Flights.
With a newly outfitted image, Clinton traveled back to the Hawkeye State to make her first official appearance as a presidential candidate, all with the hopes of learning from her past mistakes and ingratiating herself with the state she so painfully lost back in 2008.
Now, as she flies home, Clinton is likely breathing a sigh of relief. There were no hiccups and no gaffes.
Overall, Clinton got generally good reviews, but her performance also raised some questions.
What She Accomplished: She Reintroduced Herself to Iowans.
Clinton wanted to show Iowans that this time things would be different, and she did just that, at least at the outset. Instead of traveling around in the “Hill-o-copter,” as she did in 2008, this time Clinton came via a road trip in her van, dubbed Scooby. She held small, intimate meetings with what she calls “everyday Iowans,” instead of large rallies. And she listened to their concerns (often over coffee, or chai in her case), which she says will help shape her policy plans. Many of these events were clearly choreographed and staged, but even so, Clinton made the effort to make a fresh start.
Did She Convince Them? Clinton may have pressed a reset button in Iowa, but it's unclear that will be enough to shake off pre-conceived notions. While many Iowans expressed appreciation for the effort Clinton was making, not all left completely convinced she had their vote. For many Iowa Democrats, like State Rep. Scott Ourth of Ackworth, it’s still a wait-and-see kind of game. “The field has yet to evolve,” Ourth told reporters, when asked whether he’d caucus for Clinton. “I’m eager to see how this pans out.”
What She Accomplished: She Relayed Her Message.
On the most basic of levels, Clinton made her campaign message known. During her first official event Tuesday, Clinton spelled out four central themes for her campaign: building the “economy of tomorrow, not yesterday,” strengthening families, fixing the dysfunctional political system, and protecting the country from threats at home and abroad. “I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans” in those areas, Clinton explained.
Where's the Beef? Clinton gave big picture ideas, but said little to none in the way of details. Even Clinton’s website still does not have a section explaining her key policy issues, let alone details of specific policy plans. Clinton did hint that the nuts and bolts of her plans would be coming, but just not yet. “Before I roll out my policies,” she explained Wednesday, “I want to hear from people on the frontlines.”
What She Accomplished: She Dodged the Tough Questions.
Even as another New York Times story broke regarding Clinton’s use of personal email as secretary of state, she managed to steer clear of any of the controversies that have surrounded her over the past few months. Clinton avoided all questions on the subject of her emails, as well as other questions on topical issues, telling reporters, "We’ll have plenty of time to talk later."
But How Much Longer Can That Last? As a presidential candidate, Clinton will eventually have to respond to the hard questions. Although she said she would chat with reporters at some point, it’s unclear when that will be and how long she’ll be able to keep this up.
What She Accomplished: She Heard From ‘Everyday’ People.
Clinton wanted to talk to “everyday Iowans," and that she did. Instead of a big rally in a large venue, Clinton visited local shops and diners, and held roundtables and coffee chats, often in very small spaces, to learn about the day-to-day concerns of local business owners and students.
But Can She Keep It Up? When it comes to the Clintons, there’s no such thing as small. Even Hillary Clinton’s roundtables of just a few people in Iowa had swarms of press watching. Logistically speaking, it's a challenge either way. But the lingering questions is how long can a candidate call for intimacy when hundreds of media are following her every move?
What She Accomplished: She Managed to Surprise Us…
But Did It Make a Difference? Not all were enamored by Clinton's impromptu shticks. Yes it showed she was trying, but for some it was just too much.
"It was...contrived or overthought," said Josh Skipworth, an Iowa Democrat who supported Obama in 2008. Even so, he added, she's done a "good job."