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After Low-Key Announcement, Hillary Clinton Heads To Iowa


The field of declared presidential candidates is getting more crowded by the day.


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, now the time has come for our generation to lead the way towards a new American century.

SIEGEL: Florida Republican, Marco Rubio, is formally entering the race. He made that announcement at the Freedom Tower in Miami today.


Rubio spoke earlier today with our colleague, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep. In that interview, the senator touted his credentials on immigration while downplaying Hillary Clinton's.


RUBIO: I mean, I help pass an immigration bill out of a Senate dominated by Democrats, and that's more than she's ever done. She's given speeches on it, but she's never done anything on it.

CORNISH: Senator Rubio's entry comes just a day after Hillary Clinton made a decidedly more low-key announcement via video. It features so-called everyday Americans for the first 90 seconds, before you see Clinton. And then, in another departure, she hit the road - literally. Hillary Clinton's taking a van from New York to Iowa. Having used a speedier form of transportation, a plane, NPR's Tamara Keith is already in Iowa. She joins us now. Hello there, Tamara.


CORNISH: So, Hillary Clinton's first events in Iowa are tomorrow. What can we expect?

KEITH: Well, there's only one event actually on the calendar. It's a roundtable with students and educators at the Kirkwood Community College Jones County Regional Center. This is not the main campus of the college. It's a satellite campus, and that is part of the Clinton campaign's effort to go small. Her advisors made sure to point out that they were at a distant satellite campus. They say that she'll be having other meetings. They mentioned a coffee shop, conversations with Democratic activists, elected officials, just regular folks. But those won't be big media events. They are trying to make those intimate conversations where Hillary Clinton can ask and answer questions.

CORNISH: So help us understand. Why go small?

KEITH: Well, in 2007, she kind of went big, and activists here in Iowa griped that she was taking Iowa for granted, that she was treating it more like a primary than a caucus, and she lost. She lost big. She came in third place with behind John Edwards and Barack Obama, who both hustled in the state. At times it seemed like they lived in Iowa. This time, he campaign team says that she is going to work for every single vote, trying to win the support of every precinct captain, every caucus-goer, taking nothing for granted. And they'rere also talking about even wanting to rebuild the party in the state. This time, though, she isn't competing against a Barack Obama or even a John Edwards. She's competing against, in theory, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who haven't yet announced but who have been spending time in the state. But people here I've spoken to say they haven't really gained traction. So for Clinton there will be this challenge of trying to run as if someone is chasing her.

CORNISH: What's the symbolism behind this van tour? She's driving from New York to Iowa?

KEITH: She is not, as far as we can tell, actually driving. She recently said that she hasn't actually been allowed to drive since 1996. So it's most likely that the Secret Service is driving the van. But, you know, road trips are fun. I've done cross-country road trips, and you get to see lots of the landscape. You get to meet different people and see different kinds of gas stations and minimarts. And already she's tweeted a picture from a gas station where she took a picture with an unsuspecting family. And so I think that she's trying to signal, like, hey, I'm just like the rest of you, even though she has, in fact, been living in a protective bubble for 25 years. She's also trying to signal, hey, I'm not taking a private plane here. I'm taking a van.

CORNISH: So far, what's the reaction from Democratic activists in Iowa?

KEITH: Well, there's been a lot of enthusiasm launch video. There were people tweeting and sending Facebook messages around with excitement, and they say she's making all the right moves initially. The question is whether she can keep that up or whether these small, intimate events are going to become big, thousand-person town halls like she had last time around.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith in Des Moines, Iowa. Tamara, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.