After coming in third in the Iowa caucuses in 2008, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does not have much love for Hawkeye State Democrats. The feeling, it seems, is mutual.
Over the weekend, Clinton traveled to Iowa to attend retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) “steak fry,” an event which has become an institution in the pivotal Midwestern electoral battleground. NBC News sent Andrea Mitchell along with her where the reporter spent some time speaking to prospective Democratic caucus-goers.
Mitchell found what so many know in their hearts to be true: Clinton’s support among Democrats is a mile wide and an inch deep.
“I’m looking for someone that’s a little more liberal,” one Iowa Democrat, a politically active law student, told Mitchell during a round table interview. “More on the edge of pushing some important issues like climate change and campaign finance reform and income equality and things like that and I’m not sure that Hillary is that candidate.”
“I think people see kind of the cronyism on Wall Street,” another likely Democratic kingmaker told Mitchell. “Her biggest supporters are Wall Street.”
“And, you know, she’s currently on the circuit giving speeches to Goldman Sachs,” she continued. “And I just feel like regular people might see that as something that they’re not looking for anymore.”
One of the people who will be counted on to help propel Clinton to the Democratic presidential nomination even compared her to – gulp! – Mitt Romney.
“I do feel like maybe she’s a little malleable in kind of a Mitt Romney sort of way,” the lukewarm supporter said. “I would love to see the first woman president. But it doesn’t matter more to me than my Progressive values.”
In another report Mitchell filed from the Hawkeye State, it was revealed that it is not just grassroots Democrats who are cautious about supporting Clinton in 2016. “The campaign in 2016 would need to be different,” said Iowa state Sen. Janet Peterson (D- Des Moines). “It would need to be more ground up.”
Clinton has been taking her left for granted. Amid a book tour in June, she spent the better part of the month staking out center-left positions (without going so far as to issue a self-flagellating condemnation of her own record) and defending her progressive record to outlets on the left like NPR.
The former secretary of state has sacrificed a lot of trust on the left, and few of her Democratic allies in the grassroots are willing to extend to her the benefit of the doubt. Take, for example, the deluge of criticism Clinton received for remaining silent over the course of August on the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. Eventually, Clinton came out and condemned the violence, the excessive police response, and said that pervasive racism remains a problem in the United States.
Clinton’s supporters were satisfied, but it was telling that they could not trust her instincts. They needed to hear the likely Democratic standard-bearer make her position clear.
That pattern will be repeated with increasing frequency as the 2016 election cycle heats up. Raging just below the Democratic Party’s placid surface, there is a current of doubt in Clinton gaining strength. It is only the Clinton machine’s deft ability to intimidate credible challengers from taking a run at her from her left that is securing her status a likely Democratic nominee.