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Hillary Rodham Clinton returns to Iowa presidential testing grounds

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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INDIANOLA, Iowa — In some ways, it’s the end of a Democratic Party era. Still, in other ways, it could prove to be just the beginning.

Former Secretary of State and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton dangled the beginning pieces of presidential bait in front of some of her most vigilant supporters on Sunday in the closing minutes of the final Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola.

With a massive America flag spanning more than 20 feet, dozens of haystacks, the state’s green rolling hills, and fellow party powerhouses surrounding her, Rodham Clinton shied off claims that she was ready to jump into presidential politics — at least for the time being.

“Well, it’s true. I am thinking about,” she told the estimated audience of 10,000. “But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak.”

Between screams from the crowd — that at times hinted that guests were at a concert rather than in America’s Heartland in the middle of September — the all-smiles Rodham Clinton told stories of how retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, played a pivotal role in growing her personal and professional careers.

Even Harkin himself, who has held the events for many years, confessed to the sea of supporters that the real action was for Rodham Clinton.

They’ve dined together inside the comforts of their homes and stood by each other through decades of campaign stumping over thousands of miles across the United States.

“Over these years, both Bill and Hillary have become part of our Iowa Democratic family,” an emotional Harkin told the crowd, before announcing them as the “comeback couple.”

Just a few hours before addressing the sea of supporters that waved “Ready for Hillary” fans, showed off stickers and clad themselves in light blue “Hillary” T-shirts, Rodham Clinton partook in the ceremonious flip of a Hy-Vee steak to a closely packed group of the press.

Facing the journalists, who at times appeared hungry for her to announce her presidential campaign right then and then, she said: “These look really good. I think they’re well-done.”

With just 49 days until the November elections, Hillary’s return alongside her husband, former President Bill Clinton has sparked flames in American politics, from strategists analyzing her near-every move and strident supporters advocating to make the jaunt back into the limelight.

West Des Moines resident Pattie Klein, 55, and Virginia Garrett, 58, of South English are two such advocates.

Klein, who supported Rodham Clinton in 2008, said the former secretary of State, New York senator, and first lady has her vote should she climb the presidential ladder.

“The impossible is to try to make peace between the two parties,” Klein said, when asked what the steepest challenge Rodham Clinton would face in the presidential arena. “It’s party in-fighting that’s hurting this country.”

Rodham Clinton is one two national political figures who lead the pack among potential 2016 candidates, a new poll released last week conducted by CNN/ORC International shows.

Of the 309 registered Iowa Democrats contacted, 53 percent of the 1,013 adults responded that they would support Rodham Clinton for president should Iowa have held its caucuses on Sept. 12.

She led the next viable candidate — Vice President Joe Biden — by almost 40 percentage points.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan following the fry, she said it is “the people” of Iowa that keep her coming back.

Six years ago, it was the people of Iowa who thwarted her presidential run, when caucus attendees backed then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois.

Rodham Clinton declined to comment on when she plans to return to Iowa’s tried-and-true soil that holds the title of the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

“Too many people get excited about presidential campaigns,” she said to the crowd. “Look, I get excited.”


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