Rodham Clinton to win Iowa, she'll have to get past the men
challenging her for the Democratic presidential nomination
and the state's tradition of turning a cold shoulder
to female candidates.
Iowa is one of
only two states -- Mississippi is the other -- that have
never sent a woman to Congress or the governor's mansion.
None have been tested in Iowa's presidential caucuses;
any who campaigned here dropped out before the vote.
But Clinton is
campaigning in large part on her gender; she noted during
a swing through the state this week that she couldn't run as
anything else. She is making appeals to women and the
voters who support them in subtle and direct ways.
She says she's
not running because she's a woman, but because she is the
most qualified and experienced person for the job. But at
every stop, she used her potential to break through
the ultimate glass ceiling as part of her closing
argument for voters to elect her.
''I was so
touched the first time I shook the hand of a woman and she
reached out and grabbed my hand and said to me, 'I'm 95
years old. I was born before women could vote and I'm
going to live long enough to see a woman in the White
House!''' Clinton said in Dakota City.
As always, the
story won enthusiastic applause from the assembled Iowans.
She always followed up by saying she often sees parents
pointing her out and telling their daughters she was
proof they could be anything they want.
The pitch allows
Clinton to tell voters her candidacy would break new
ground in the face of opponents who are trying to portray
her as part of Washington's past.
September poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and
the Pew Forum found 12% said they would be less likely to
support a presidential candidate who is a woman, while
15% said they would be likelier.
A Des Moines
Register poll last Sunday showed Clinton now leading
in Iowa among Democrats, with 29% support, up from 21%. John
Edwards was at 23%, down from 29%, with Barack Obama
in third place at 22%.
of Humboldt, Iowa, had heard them all. She's seen
Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on their visits to her rural
community in the central part of the state. She's
decided to support Clinton.
''I was not
initially, simply because I wonder if in office if she'll be
part of the good old boy system. I hope not,'' Drechsler
said after posing for a picture with the New York
senator and asking her to help U.S. soldiers returning
from Iraq with mental problems. ''I just feel like
she's the most capable, most credible and it's an extra
bonus she's a woman.''
Clinton spent two
days campaigning with two of Iowa's best known
political women -- former first lady Christie Vilsack and
Ruth Harkin, wife of Sen. Tom Harkin. The trio stopped
at a Maid-Rite restaurant for its famous loose meat
sandwiches, and Clinton chatted up their server, Anita
It turned out
that that single mother with two grown sons was working her
first day at Maid-Rite, a second job she took to help make
ends meet. From then on, Clinton talked about the
waitress and her struggles.
have much to count on when it comes to retirement except
for Social Security,'' Clinton said in Webster City as she
pitched her plan for universal 401(k) accounts. ''A
lot of the workers are left behind, but I think we
know what to do. We just need a president who believes
it's important to do it.''
Iowans' desire to
vote for a woman is something Roxanne Conlin hears
frequently. Conlin is a cochair of Edwards' Iowa campaign
and lost a close race for governor in 1982. She
attributes the defeat to her gender.
''Iowa is in some
significant ways a very traditional state,'' Conlin
said. ''I see so many women who say, 'For crying out loud,
it's our time. We've waited so long.'''
She said she and
Edwards don't try to fight that desire, but they try to
convince voters that he is the most electable candidate --
not because he's a man, she says, but because he's won
in the South. She said she points out that Clinton
represents New York and has some personal baggage that
might turn off Southern voters. ''Electability will be a
very strong factor in the mind of Iowa participants,''
Conlin said. (Nedra Pickler, AP)