CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — “I had one of the most wonderful rallies of my entire career right here in 1992,” Bill Clinton said by way of opening to the crowd of more than 1,100 on Saturday night.
Two days before the Iowa caucuses, Cedar Rapids tried to deliver that same old feeling to his wife, Hillary Clinton.
In the crowd, one woman held a sign that said “227 years of men. It’s HER turn!" Some carried signs and books. Others had traveled from as far as Missouri. They had waited hours, even after the fire marshal told them there was no more room inside the high school gymnasium.
The restive crowd chanted slogans and buzzed with anticipation until finally Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton all appeared on stage hand-in-hand, an hour behind schedule. As they roared, Hillary Clinton beamed.
“I’m with her!” a woman screamed, unprompted.
It has been a long slog in Iowa for the Clinton campaign, which has struggled mightily to shake the label that its supporters can’t muster the enthusiasm of its rival’s backers. As the caucuses near, and with the help of a former president, the energy level at her events are notably dialing up.
"He's a charismatic speaker," said Cigi Ross, 31. "In general, I'd say he's a bigger draw for people."
Monday night will put the campaign's months of their work to the test. Can the campaign’s organization bring out their supporters? Can the candidate energize voters?
Clinton, who seemed to draw on the higher-than-usual energy, stood at the center of it all and delivered a confident closing statement.
“What we need is a plan, and a commitment,” Clinton said at the top of her voice.
“And you!” a woman called out.
“And me, yes, thank you,” Clinton finished.
Eight years later, Clinton is in Iowa once again facing what could be a nail-biting conclusion of a hard-fought campaign. Clinton acknowledges that it isn’t just her campaign that has changed since her devastating loss here in her last run, she too has changed — and improved, she told CNN on Saturday.
"I think I am a different, and perhaps a better, candidate, so I hope that also shows," Clinton said in an interview with the network that morning.
Days ago, Iowa seemed to be slipping from her grasp, but campaign aides are feeling more confident now. A slew of positive news, endorsements, and the latest poll from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News indicate the bleeding has at least slowed. That poll -- considered the gold standard in Iowa -- gave Clinton a slim lead over her rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
If Democrats are wary of political dynasties, they didn’t show it. Spotting someone in the audience carrying Chelsea Clinton's book, her father remarked: "Thank you, young woman, for holding up her book."
Bill Clinton, who has spent days crisscrossing the state on his wife's behalf, has settled easily into this role as booster-in-chief. He lays off the policy, leaving that to his wife. He focuses instead on what he knows "about the job."
“There are certain, almost intangible qualities that determine whether a president succeeds or not,” Clinton said, his voice raspy, even and low. "You need a sticker. A sticker: someone who won’t quit on you.”
"She’s the best at that I’ve ever known,” he added.