Clinton meets with Iowa students on first day of campaign


; Richard Martinez/Iowa State Daily

Hillary Clinton waives to supporters at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa, on Sept. 14, 2014. She will be at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines to host a lunch party Sunday at 11 a.m.

Alex Hanson

Hillary Clinton is in Iowa for a two-day swing to meet with Iowans, the first official stops on her 2016 campaign for president.

Clinton, who announced her candidacy Sunday afternoon with a web video, is using a different type of strategy than her 2008 campaign by driving almost 15 hours to Iowa, and opting for small group interactions with voters instead of big campaign rallies.

Instead of flying, Clinton drove from New York to Iowa on Sunday evening and most of Monday with just a few of her advisers and secret service protection. Mostly keeping it low key, Clinton did talk with some citizens at a gas station stop in Pennsylvania and was also spotted ordering lunch at Chipotle in Ohio, where she went unrecognized.

Clinton stayed overnight in Davenport at the Hotel Blackhawk, and to the surprise of several Quad City residents and Iowa activists, made her first official campaign stop by sitting down at a coffee shop in nearby LeClaire.

Carter Bell, a University of Iowa student who is also president of the UI College Democrats, said it was a surprise to meet with Clinton. She said Clinton’s Iowa staff told her that she would have the opportunity to meet with campaign staff to talk about issues, but instead wound up having the opportunity to sit down with Clinton.

Bell, who was also joined by a St. Ambrose University student from Davenport and a Planned Parenthood employee from West Liberty, said the meeting with Clinton lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.

As for the conversation, Bell said Clinton asked those meeting with her about themselves, and then asked about what students on campus are concerned about. They discussed college affordability, student debt, student loans and textbook costs.

“I really enjoyed it,” Bell said. “It was amazing to get to meet with her like that. I think [her small group stops] are a little unconventional because most politicians I’ve experienced have big rallies and bigger events. I really felt like she cared what I had to say and wanted to hear what people were saying on the ground.”

Clinton was later in Monticello at the Jones County Regional Center of Kirkwood Community College. There she meet with about 20 different Iowans, mostly high school and college students, but also some high school and Kirkwood administration officials.

At the event, Clinton struck a populist tone, similar to her announcement video, saying something is wrong in America when CEOs make 300 times more than average workers. Along with calling for a possible constitutional amendment to keep big money out of politics, she discussed at length education topics and said she supports President Obama’s plan for two free years of community college.

The two-day swing is Clinton’s first as a candidate and her first Iowa trip since her appearance at former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s streak fry in Indianola back in September.

At 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Clinton will be at Capital City Fruit in Norwalk, a city of 8,000 just south of Des Moines.

Several other potential Democratic candidates have been in Iowa recently, including former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb this past weekend.

Bell said she is a solid Clinton supporter at this point, but “competition is good and would make her a stronger candidate.”