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Hillary Clinton’s light touch in Iowa

Updated

DES MOINES, Iowa – Hillary Clinton’s low-key campaign rollout continued Wednesday with a small-business roundtable outside the capital city and meetings with Democratic lawmakers here.

Clinton began her day in smaller Marshalltown, where she met privately at a coffee shop with local Democratic activists and party officials – part of her plan to “drink my way across Iowa,” as she said at a similar stop at a coffee shop Monday.

Afterwards, she headed to the main event of the day – a roundtable discussion at a fruit distribution company in Norwalk, a few miles south of Des Moines.

RELATED: Clinton charms Iowa caucus voters

It was the second of Clinton’s two anchor events during this two-day swing through the state that derailed her presidential ambitions in 2008. The events were meant to reintroduce Clinton to voters in Iowa, where, during her last campaign, she was sometimes perceived as imperious and too centrist. 

This time around, Clinton’s campaign wanted to communicate that things would be different, and that the former secretary of state was eager to work for every single vote in the state and beyond. Despite the staged and carefully choreographed nature of the main events, Clinton got face time with voters and received favorable coverage in the local press. Campaign sources say they were very pleased with the trip, which resembled the “listening tour” she went on in the early phases of her 2000 senatorial campaign. 

Inside the warehouse of the Capital City Fruit Company, with boxes of packed fruit stacked to the ceiling behind her, Clinton talked about the economy with the owner of the company and three other small business owners.

“In this campaign I want to find ways that we can make sure we’re building on the success and the hard work and innovation of Americans,” she said.

Clinton said she gained new insight from talking with the businessmen like the owner of a bowling alley, who told her that student loan debt made it difficult for him to find financing for his business. That was an issue Clinton said she had never encountered before.

She declined to lay out policy specifics, saying that would come in due time after she had a chance to speak with “you on the front lines.”

RELATED: Is Hillary really our only choice?

After the event, Clinton headed straight to the golden-domed state capitol building to meet with Democratic lawmakers.

Every member of the Democratic House and Senate caucus was invited, and most attended. Most who spoke with msnbc declined to endorse Clinton, savoring the value of their support in the key presidential state.

Clinton told the lawmakers about her desire to help build up the Democratic Party at all levels – a welcome message from a candidate whose last presidential bid was sometimes considered too centered on her own ambitions. 

Clinton will make a more formal entrance to the campaign trail in May, kicked off with a big rally, but for now is taking things slowly and listening to “everyday Americans.”

After driving to Iowa from her home just north of New York City – stopping twice semi-publically along the way – Clinton planned to step off the trail Thursday and leave Iowa after just two days in the state.

Instead of heading straight this week to New Hampshire or South Carolina, the next two states in the nominating process, Clinton planned to fly home – commercial – campaign officials told msnbc.

The last two times she visited Iowa, Clinton arrived via private jet, so the new transportation methods underscored the humbled version of Clinton the campaign hopes to present in Iowa.

Next week, the former secretary of state has events in Washington and New York City on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

While Clinton’s Iowa swing was light on policy, she clearly articulated a rationale for her candidacy. “I’m running for president because I think that Americans and their families need a champion, and I want to be that champion,” she said at her first event Monday at a community college in Monticello, Iowa.

She laid out what she called her “four big fights” that will define her campaign.

First: “We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday,” she told four students and three educators at a roundtable staged in an automotive technology classroom.

Second: “We need to strengthen families and communities because that’s where it all starts,” she said.

Third: “And we need to fix the dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment,” she said, breaking some policy ground for her.

And fourth: “We need to protect our country from threats that we see and the ones that are on the horizon,” she said.

The clear articulation of a rational for running was clearly a goal of Clinton’s Iowa visit, as was an attempt to show she was willing to work hard for votes in a state that spurred her in 2008.

It was fitting coda that her first event of the 2016 campaign which took place at a satellite campus of Kirkwood Community College – the same institution that hosted her final rally of the 2008 campaign.

Hillary Clinton and Iowa

Hillary Clinton's light touch in Iowa

Updated