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In Iowa, Sen. Clinton Faces Questions on Iraq Vote
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In Iowa, Sen. Clinton Faces Questions on Iraq Vote

Politics

In Iowa, Sen. Clinton Faces Questions on Iraq Vote

In Iowa, Sen. Clinton Faces Questions on Iraq Vote
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Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Hillary Clinton travels to Iowa, meeting with voters who will be the first to gauge her presidential prospects a year from now. In her first campaign swing through the state, Clinton faced both adoring fans and tough questions, mostly about her vote on Iraq.

REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

Hillary Clinton is in Iowa this weekend, meeting with voters who will be the first to gauge her presidential prospects a year from now. In her first campaign swing through the state, Clinton faced both adoring fans and tough questions, mostly about her vote in Iraq.

Iowa public radio's Jeneane Beck has this report.

JENEANE BECK: Prior to her visit, Senator Clinton personally telephoned prominent Iowa Democrats to ask for advice. And her first stop Friday evening was a private meeting with Iowa's newly elected Democratic governor, Chet Culver. Then yesterday, Clinton spoke with labor leaders before stopping by a meeting of the Iowa Democratic Party Central Committee.

(Soundbite of applause)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Well, I thought I'd drop by.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BECK: Clinton promised these Democrats she'd run a campaign that Iowa caucus-goers are accustomed to, meeting in their living rooms, church basements and union halls. As if to prove her point, she then hung around for questions and was quickly asked how she would explain away her 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

Sen. CLINTON: Well, I have said on numerous occasions that if we knew then what we know now, there never would have been a vote. The Congress never would have voted to give the president authority. And I would have not voted to give the president authority. And I think that I've taken responsibility for my vote, but there are no do-overs in life. I wish there were.

BECK: Most committee members applauded her response, but Ira Lasher(ph) of Des Moines says her vote on Iraq is not her only hurdle here.

Mr. IRA LASHER: She is going to have - I don't want to use the word baggage, that's a negative. But whoever she runs against, as soon as she's the nominee, will bring up everything from the '90s, everything from the Bill Clinton era, which includes the Rose law firm, which includes Whitewater, which includes Vince Foster. Everything that was used to discredit Bill Clinton will be used to discredit her, and probably 20 times over.

BECK: Lasher says he has not yet decided whom to support in the Iowa caucuses and is looking for the candidate who can energize the American people. Clinton clearly energized Audrey Linville(ph) of Davenport, who nodded vigorously as the Senator answered questions, and at one point said good girl to a particular response.

Ms. AUDREY LINVILLE: The fact she is a female does excite me, but also her thinking is with my thinking. So I think that's most important. And if enough people understand her thinking, she probably will be our next president.

BECK: But in the next breath, Linville says she's supporting former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for the nomination. Vilsack hoped to draw some of the spotlight away from Clinton's visit by holding his own town meeting in Fort Dodge Saturday night. However, his crowd could not even come close to matching the more than 1,500 who crammed into a Des Moines high school gymnasium to hear the former first lady.

Clinton used the stop to address her second perceived weakness in the campaign, her gender.

Sen. CLINTON: Now, I know there are people who either say or wonder, would we ever elect a woman president.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

Sen. CLINTON: And I don't think we'll know till we try.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. CLINTON: And I'm going to try. And with your help, I think we can do it!

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

BECK: The roaring crowd wasn't the only mark of Clinton's celebrity status. She arrived with an entourage requiring 10 vehicles, including Secret Service, and was trailed by more than 150 reporters and photographers. It's that kind of star power that convinced some lesser-known Democrats, like Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, to stay out of the race. But Jim Sheffler(ph) of Des Moines says while he was impressed with Clinton's speech, heavy turnout now doesn't necessarily translate into votes on caucus night, January 14, 2008.

Mr. JIM SHEFFLER: Hillary is kind of a rock star in a way. People come out to see her. Whether she'd be running or not, there'd be a lot of people here.

JENEANE BECK: Clinton is wrapping up her Iowa campaign swing today with a second town meeting in Davenport.

From NPR News, I'm Jeneane Beck in Des Moines.

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