Did Hillary Clinton say anything important in Iowa?

Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Iowa over the weekend, and it sounded a lot like a stump speech in the making. Even the theme was familiar: 'It's the economy, stupid.'

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry Sunday in Indianola, Iowa.

Hillary Rodham Clinton did not announce that she’s running for president during her big Sunday appearance at the Harkin Steak Fry in Iowa. Nobody really expected she would, though reporters keep asking about her intention. Maybe they just hope she’ll forget herself and let something slip out if they keep up the badgering.

But Clinton talked like a candidate. And by that we’re not just referring to her coy “Hello Iowa, I’m baaaack!” at the start of her speech to the crowd. Her address focused a lot on economic issues, specially pitched to try and appeal to middle class voters. It sounded like the first draft of a stump speech – the kind of thing she’ll repeat over and over in the months to come, with some tailoring of the edges for her particular audience.

Her theme? Surprise, surprise, it appears to be economic problems as experienced by the middle class. (Didn’t another presidential candidate named Clinton once have a sign on their war room wall, “It’s the economy, stupid”?)

In this Clinton appears to be fulfilling the prediction made by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, who earlier this month said she will campaign on nostalgia for the prosperous years when Bill Clinton ran the country.

“Today, you know so well, American families are working harder than ever, but maintaining a middle-class life feels like pushing a boulder uphill every single day. That is not how it’s supposed to be in America,” said Hillary Clinton at the Steak Fry podium, standing in front of a backdrop of a tractor and bales of hay.

Then she looped this idea back into the American Dream, saying that in the US in the past each generation has done a little better than the one before.

“That’s who we’ve always been and that is what our country must be again. So that’s what this election is really about,” said the former secretary of State.

No, she wasn’t referring to 2016 there. Don’t get ahead of yourself. She was talking about the upcoming midterms, in which the razor-close Iowa Senate race between Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and GOP nominee Jodi Ernst could determine control of the chamber.

Clinton’s words got a polite reception from the crowd. Her biggest applause lines were those which dealt with women’s rights, according to CNN’s Peter Hamby. That’s something of a change – in her, not the audience. During her 2008 run, Clinton generally shied away from “focusing on her gender and the history-making nature of her candidacy,” writes Mr. Hamby.

It was hubby Bill who got the warmest reception, though. He spoke after her (protocol – he’s actually been president, remember) and as Politico’s Maggie Haberman noted, the “Bill Clinton Show was very much in town.”

Bill veered all over the rhetorical map, leaping from excitement at his impending grandchild, to the Arkansas Senate race, to the career of retiring Steak Fry host Sen. Tim Harkin, to the Koch Brothers and the problem of big money in politics.

That could be a problem for Hillary going forward, as her style is inevitably compared to that of her husband. When the couple worked the crowd at the rope line, it was a reminder “how much the former president enjoys the art of politicking more than his wife does,” writes Ms. Haberman.

That’s a comparison the nascent Hillary campaign can’t be too happy about.

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