CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Fresh from a two-day road trip, Hillary Rodham Clinton is making her 2016 campaign debut in Iowa at a small-town gathering, part of a concerted effort by her campaign to tamp down big expectations and hold personal “conversations” with voters.
Clinton was touring a community college and holding a round-table discussion with students and teachers in Monticello, Iowa, on April 14.
“I won’t take anything for granted. I’m going to work my heart out to earn every single vote,” Clinton said in a fundraising email to supporters.
Clinton, seeking to become America’s first female president, announced her candidacy in a video posted online April 12 and left by van on a trip from her New York home to Iowa, the Midwestern state whose caucuses kick off the long, state-by-state contest for the Democratic nomination.
This time, the former first lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State appears unlikely to face a formidable Democratic opponent in the primary campaign.
Should she win the nomination, Clinton would face the winner of a crowded Republican primary field that could feature as many as two dozen candidates. Three Republican senators have already entered the race — Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Her potential Republican rivals are already treating Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
Announcing his own 2016 campaign to top donors, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio branded Clinton as “a leader from yesterday who wants to take us back to yesterday.”
Clinton is also taking a low-key approach to fundraising, forgoing the celebrity-studded fundraisers that marked her husband’s Presidency, as well as the high-dollar private events put on this year by a potential Republican rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother and son of former presidents.
Instead, Clinton’s initial appeals for money will be for small-dollar donations collected over the Internet instead of in swanky fundraising blowouts in New York, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.
Advisers have set a modest goal of raising $100 million for the primary campaign and will not initially accept donations for the general election.
“Everyone knows that over time Hillary Clinton will raise enough to be competitive,” said Tom Nides, a top Wall Street supporter and former State Department adviser to Clinton. “Her objective is not to raise money to prove that she can. It’s to build the grassroots organization.”
Clinton retains deep ties to the party’s top fundraisers, including those cultivated by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, during the 1990s.
During its first call with donors April 13, Hillary Clinton’s team noted that some of those listening in helped President Barack Obama’s campaigns, while others had raised money for Clinton’s own White House bid in 2008. Others, they said, were new to the fundraising circuit.
Clinton, 67, wrapped up a roughly 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) road trip from her home in New York City’s suburbs to Iowa. Riding aboard a van nicknamed “Scooby,” after the cartoon character Scooby-Doo, Clinton surprised fellow travelers April 12 at a gas station in Pennsylvania and then made a lunch stop April 13 at a Chipotle restaurant south of Toledo, Ohio.
In Iowa, Clinton aims to overcome her disappointing third-place finish in the 2008 caucuses won by Obama. Her team says they want to build a grassroots campaign that will help rebuild the state’s Democratic party, which suffered losses in the 2014 elections.
Her events April 14-15 will focus heavily on pocketbook economic issues in small-town Iowa, and Clinton was expected to connect with local officials, community leaders and Democratic activists.
The understated start offered parallels to Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign in New York, when she ventured into small upstate towns to convene meetings with voters and local leaders. It was dubbed her “listening tour.”
On the fundraising circuit, meanwhile, her approach stands in contrast to her potential Republican challengers, who have used early fundraising as a measuring stick in a wide-open primary and used their entry into the race to tout so-called “money bombs” that aim to raise a large amount of money in a short time.
(KEN THOMAS and LISA LERER)