CLINTON, Iowa – As Hillary Clinton urged realism Saturday afternoon on one side of town, Bernie Sanders was a few miles away calling for revolution and a repeat of the improbable election that set Barack Obama on his course to the Democratic nomination here in 2008.
Speaking to 700 people packed into the basement of a Masonic lodge, Sanders said the Clinton campaign was getting “nervous” and lashing out. That’s a good thing, he said, tying himself more directly than ever to Obama’s insurgent campaign against Clinton eight years ago.
“We get attacked about five times a day,” Sander said. “But it reminds me very much of what happened here in Iowa eight years ago. Remember that? Eight years ago, Obama was being attacked for everything. He was unrealistic; his ideas were pie-in-the sky; he did not have the experience that was needed.
“You know what?” Sanders continued. “People of Iowa saw through those attacks then, and they’re going to see through those attacks again.”
Obama beat Clinton in the 2008 Iowa caucuses by exciting young people and motivating a flood of first-time caucus-goers, helping to push turnout to nearly twice the levels seen in the 2004 caucuses. Sanders is hoping to deal Clinton another defeat Iowa by using the same playbook.
Across town at an elementary school, Clinton was reprising a bit of her own 2008 message, touting her “years of experience” and stressing the need to be pragmatic. “Everything I am proposing in this campaign, you go to my website, I tell you how I am going to pay for it,” she said.
On health care, Clinton said Obamacare had gotten the county 90% of the way to covering everyone, and that getting from 90 to 100% is easier than going from zero to 100. “My esteemed opponent, Sen. Sanders, wants to start all over again,” she said.
Sanders, meanwhile, asked people to dream big, again by invoking Obama to dismiss the naysayers. No one thought a black man could ever win, Sanders said, and especially in a nearly all-white state like Iowa. “You made it happen. You made history,” Sanders said.
Even as he hopes to emulate candidate Obama, Sanders has allowed daylight to creep in between himself and President Obama – a gap the Clinton campaign has sought to exploit by suggesting he’s not a real Democrat and by playing up a rift this week with Planned Parenthood and other groups.
“We got the entire political establishment heading to Iowa this week,” Sanders said at an earlier event in Davenport. “And it seems to me that some of my friends in the political establishment are afraid. They are afraid that we can revitalize the Democratic Party, bring in millions of young people and working-class people, but that’s not something that anybody in this room is nervous about. That is exactly what we want.”
Clinton is campaigning with Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards and attended an event with national labor leaders. On Sunday, she will go to church with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party.
Just two days ago, Sanders walked back his comment that groups Planned Parenthood and the the LGBT right group the Human Rights Campaign are part of the “establishment” after they protested him labeling them as such.
But as pro-Clinton forces circle around Sanders’ candidacy, he’s falling back on the strategy of portraying all incoming fire as a sign the establishment is afraid of the change he wants to make. “People all over Iowa, and people all over America are sick and tired of establishment politics,” Sanders said.
He got a boost in that mission Saturday when Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of the giant hedge fund Blackstone, attributed the recent drop in the stock market in part to Wall Street’s fear about Sanders’ climb in the polls. “We’re making Wall Street nervous – and that’s a good thing,” Sanders said to cheers.
Meanwhile, The Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in the state, endorsed Clinton Saturday evening. “I’m very pleased. Obviously, it means a lot to me,” Clinton told reporters in Davenport.