Hillary Clinton, Stumping With Burgers and Bill

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 4, 2007

SIOUX CITY, Iowa, Sept. 3 -- Hillary and Bill Clinton brought their traveling political road show to Iowa on Labor Day. The former first lady and the former president, by now long practiced as a political duo, continued the process of role reversal in the pursuit of a history-making presidency.

Industrial-size barbecue grills were already smoking in Sioux City's Riverside Park when the Clintons arrived shortly before 11 a.m. Jim Kavanaugh and Tim Bahr were in charge of one grill, as they have been for the past half-dozen years at the annual picnic hosted by the Northwest Iowa Labor Council and the Woodbury County Democratic Party.

"It's kind of an annual thing we do together," Kavanaugh said, as smoke poured from the big steel barbecue that would help cook a couple thousand burgers.

"I think this might be the last year," Bahr, a retired packinghouse employee, said from the other side of the grill. "Let a younger man have it."

Clinton wasn't the only Democratic candidate due at the picnic. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) all were planning to attend. But the senator from New York and her husband arrived first.

The heat was up in western Iowa, even in the late morning. She was wearing black pants and a red jacket. The former president was more casual -- blue jeans and a pale yellow shirt, untucked.

Sherry Gregg, from nearby Elk Point, S.D., was standing on a picnic table toward the back of the crowd. "I am a Democrat," she declared. "I am for Hillary. If Bill could run again, I'd vote for Bill, too." In fact, she voted for Bill Clinton in 2004, writing in his name.

Why is she for Hillary Clinton? "Because she's for the working class," Gregg said. "She's very strong for a woman, and I think she could make more changes in what the Republicans have done and haven't done in the last eight years."

Gregg said she does not like any of Clinton's Democratic rivals. "She's the better man, so to speak, even though she's the woman. . . . I believe she's got a good backbone. She's got Bill to back her up."

Bill Clinton has become practiced in his introductions -- riffing through what has happened to the country since he left office and explaining why he believes his wife is the best-qualified Democrat to succeed the man who succeeded him. She's experienced, she knows the world, and "she'll never forget you," he said.

The candidate delivered the new version of her stump speech, slightly altered for a labor audience (by the time she appeared in Des Moines later in the afternoon, it would have a more sharply populist tone). She relentlessly attacked the Bush administration but also told her audience that, as president, she would seek common ground with at least some Republicans in Congress. She said she would end the war in Iraq but do so responsibly.

As she always does, she concluded with an appeal to Democrats to help make her the first female president. She talked about the parents who bring their daughters to her events and about the older women -- in their 90s -- who have said they hope she succeeds. She said these older women have told her that they were born before women could vote in the United States and want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.

"Go get 'em, Hillary," came a voice from the crowd -- a man's voice.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company