The Central Iowa Democrats Fall Barbeque, held in an agriculture building on Iowa State University’s campus, usually hosts cattle judging and dog shows.
But on Nov. 15, the day after a Democratic presidential candidate debate in Des Moines, Hillary Clinton took the stage with her husband and former president Bill Clinton.
“I watched the debate, and I think I’m going to vote for Hillary,” the former president joked with the crowd of more than 600.
She was joined at the event by another presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. The third candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was not there but sent a surrogate.
The barbeque is the kind of political event that has been common in Iowa since early this year because of Iowa’s status of holding the nation’s first presidential precinct caucuses Feb. 1, 2016. The campaign appearances have become a blend of stating a candidate’s case, attacking those with whom the candidates disagree — mainly in the opposing party, and commenting on events that have Americans concerned.
When Hillary Clinton took the microphone in Ames that day in November, she began by speaking about the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. “Attacking Paris, the city of light, reminds us that there is no middle ground in going after these terrorists,” she said.
“We have to be rallying our partners and allies, pulling countries off the sidelines so th
at they work with us and they contribute to this ongoing struggle against radical jihadism,” Clinton said. “I know America has to lead it, but we cannot and should not do it alone.”
In contrast, O’Malley tried to differentiate himself from Clinton and the other candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I know when a guy stands in front of you and he says he’s got 5 percent national name recognition and he’s running for president and it’s going really well, that there is a fine line between illusion and imagination,” O’Malley joked with the Ames crowd.
O’Malley, who’s been consistently polling at or below 5 percent in several national polls, left his most pointed remarks for a press conference following his speech to that crowd.
“I don’t believe we need to scrap capitalism and replace it with socialism as Senator Sanders indicates,” O’Malley said. “And I don’t believe that we should engage in continued practice of crony capitalism where the big banks of Wall Street tell our Congress and tell our President how far they can go and how far they can’t go.”
O’Malley leveled criticism at Clinton over her ties to Wall Street, calling her response at the Des Moines debate about the topic “very, very distasteful.”
Dr. Cornel West, a Princeton professor of philosophy and a civil rights activist, spoke on Sanders’ behalf at the event, taking on Clinton in particular.
“I’m glad to hear my dear sister Hillary Clinton sounding so progressive. I salute her effort,” West said. “But it’s lip service if you don’t come to terms with your actions.”
Ames resident Selden Spencer said that while he will caucus for Sanders, he is encouraged by all of the party’s candidates.
“We are very fortunate to have such good people out there. It’s just funny, I suspect a lot of other Iowans are like me, you just kind of go with your gut at the end of the day,” Spencer said.
Avery Gregurich is a Drake University journalism student.