Hillary's Iowa problem

The state’s Democratic operatives reveal a curious paradox when handicapping the 2016 race. They note a lack of pervasive grass-roots enthusiasm for Clinton, while at the same time waving off the suggestion that she could lose to another Democrat.

“Hillary does not have the same connection with grass-roots activists that President Obama had,” said Sam Reno, a top Obama organizer in Des Moines. “But if Hillary decides to run, I believe Democrats are going to line up behind her lockstep.”

Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who was John Edwards’ Iowa state director in 2008 and later held senior roles in Obama’s political operation, recalled that six years ago, both Obama and Edwards poured an enormous amount of money and manpower into Iowa to build volunteer-based organizations in the state’s 99 counties and compete for endorsements from party leaders.

It’s difficult to imagine anyone building the same kind of institutional support to compete with Clinton in 2016, she said.

“There is still a desire for other party leaders to come visit the state and get to know Iowans,” O’Malley Dillon said. “There is opportunity for that over the course of the 2014 cycle. But if Secretary Clinton runs, it will be much harder for any candidate to build the type of organization needed to win Iowa, because it’s so intensive.”