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Mixed Reviews For Clinton In Iowa

Bob Bromely, with his wife, Ann, said Hillary Clinton
Bob Bromely, with his wife, Ann, said Hillary Clinton "dodged the issue" of the Iraq war during her Iowa visit. (Photos By Dan Balz -- The Washington Post)

But even those who want to see a woman elected to the White House worry that Clinton may not be able to win a general election, given her political baggage. "I think that it would be amazing to have her be our president," said Hollyanne Howe, a high school student. "I fear that if she is nominated, she won't be electable. I would love to see her get elected, but my biggest fear is that it won't happen and we'll get stuck with another President Bush or whomever else."

Most of those in the group strongly oppose the Iraq war, and Clinton's 2002 vote authorizing Bush to go to war rankles many. Several said they want to hear fuller explanations from her about why she voted the way she did and how she would try to end the war and bring the troops home.

"Having read all the press accounts" about her opening day in Iowa, "I still don't know what she's going to do," said Roy Porterfield, an unemployed automotive manager.

"She dodged the issue," said Bob Bromley, a retired clergyman.

"That's what concerns me," Porterfield responded. "Is there any single greater issue than the war? She better offer a solution to that real quick."

Clinton attempted to do just that on Sunday morning during a town hall meeting in Davenport, with a scathing attack on Bush and a detailed description of where she stands. But based on the reactions of the 14 Democrats, who gathered at Crosby's restaurant in downtown Cedar Rapids, it will take repeated visits to get that explanation across to activists in a party with a long antiwar tradition.

Around the table, Obama evoked some of the most effusive responses, with repeated use of the word "charismatic." But the group was decidedly split about whether he is ready to be president.

Joe Stutler, a systems analyst, said that "the C-word, 'charismatic' " describes his view of Obama but that the senator reminds him of a rock star coming off the release of a double-platinum album. "Is the first album the one and only?" he asked. "Is he a one-hit wonder? I can see him as vice president now."

But Liz Belden, a retired educator, said Obama is just what the country needs. "In my estimation, he is a gem, he's one in a million, and he does have the experience, if you read his books," she said. "I would like to see a mind like that go to Washington, D.C."

Edwards has been to Iowa 17 times in the past two years and leads many of the early polls in the state. Seen as personable, bright and compassionate by these activists, he nonetheless left them struggling to explain why they had doubts about him as a potential president.

"I really like Edwards," said Ann Bromley, a retired city worker. "I think he's intelligent and compassionate. I don't think he's electable, and I don't know why. Something is missing." Others nodded in agreement.

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