CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The big rallies and massive fundraising blitzes have to wait. Hillary Rodham Clinton is getting her 2016 campaign for president started with a few caffeinated beverages and says she’s ready to “drink my way across Iowa.”
“Hi, everybody,” Clinton said Tuesday after popping into the Jones Street Java House, a coffee shop in the Mississippi River town of LeClaire.
“I’m happy to be here.”
Fresh from a two-day road trip, Clinton’s coffee shop stop Tuesday morning is the first event in her return to presidential politics. It sticks with her strategy to hold small “retail” style events that allow her to speak to individual voters. She doesn’t plan to hold a large kickoff rally for several weeks, and will tour a community college and hold a roundtable discussion with students and teachers in Monticello, Iowa, later Tuesday.
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It’s a debut reminiscent of the “listening tour” that opened her campaign for Senate in 2000, when she ventured into small upstate towns to convene meetings with voters and local leaders. At the coffee shop, she asked for recommendations on what to order, and decided on a Masala chai and a Carmela latte, along with some water with lemon. Her total: $6.96.
Among those she spoke with was LeClaire Mayor Bob Scannell, an independent. “I always vote for the person who I think will do best for the country, and she has my vote,” he said.
In a fundraising email to supporters on Monday, Clinton promised not to take anything for granted and to “work my heart out to earn every single vote.”
Clinton is taking that same low-key approach to fundraising, forgoing the celebrity-studded fundraisers that marked her husband’s presidency, as well as the high-dollar private events put on this year by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a potential GOP rival. Instead, Clinton’s initial appeals for money will be for small-dollar donations collected over the Internet instead of in swanky fundraising blowouts in New York, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.
Advisers have set a modest goal of raising $100 million for the primary campaign and will not initially accept donations for the general election.
“Everyone knows that over time Hillary Clinton will raise enough to be competitive,” said Tom Nides, a top Wall Street supporter and former State Department adviser to Clinton. “Her objective is not to raise money to prove that she can. It’s to build the grassroots organization.”
Clinton retains deep ties to the party’s top fundraisers, including those cultivated by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, during the 1990s. During its first call with donors Monday, Hillary Clinton’s team noted that some of those listening in helped President Barack Obama’s campaigns, while others had raised money for Clinton’s own White House bid in 2008. Others, they said, were new to the fundraising circuit.
With those relationships well established, her aides on Monday outlined steps to cast their net as widely as possible to broaden their list of potential contributors, according to several donors who took part. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private conference call.
In the fundraising email, Clinton asked supporters to “chip in what you can,” asking for donations ranging from $5 and $25 to the maximum of $2,700 per individual during the primary. Her campaign intends to slowly ramp up its fundraising efforts, focusing first on online fundraising and building a network of donors whom the campaign will be able to return to in the weeks and months ahead.
“It’s not going to be the big event rollout right now. The idea is to get people involved,” said Miami attorney Ira Leesfield, a longtime Clinton friend and fundraiser.
Clinton wrapped up a roughly 1,000-mile road trip from her home in New York City’s suburbs to Iowa. Riding aboard a van nicknamed “Scooby,” after the cartoon character Scooby-Doo, Clinton surprised fellow travelers Sunday at a gas station in Pennsylvania and then made a lunch stop Monday at a Chipotle south of Toledo, Ohio.
In Iowa, Clinton aims to overcome her disappointing third-place finish in the 2008 caucuses. Her team says they want to build a grassroots campaign that will help rebuild the state’s Democratic Party, which suffered losses in the 2014 elections.
Her events Tuesday and Wednesday will focus heavily on pocketbook economic issues in small-town Iowa, and Clinton was expected to connect with local officials, community leaders and Democratic activists.