Trump vs. Clinton: A tale of 2 Iowa rallies
WINTERSET, Iowa — More than 1,000 people crowded the grounds of Oskaloosa High School on a hot and muggy Saturday afternoon, enjoying the decadent spread of free pulled-pork sandwiches and lining up to sign on to a mailing list in exchange for T-shirts and swag.
Donald Trump was in town.
The billionaire mogul gave a rowdy rally in his signature meandering, yet riveting style. He went after a new target — Scott Walker, calling his state a “disaster” and ripping the Wisconsin governor’s fiscal policies. He regaled the crowd with tales of Thursday’s circus-like trip to Laredo, Texas, where he toured the border and showcased his provocative attacks on illegal immigrants. He spent the rest of his time lamenting the state of the country while touting what an amazing businessman he is.
“Who can do better than Trump?” Trump said. “I fix things.”
Hours away from Oskaloosa, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held about as different a campaign event as one can get.
Under a big sycamore tree on the grounds of the Madison County Historical Complex — a stone’s throw from the birthplace of John Wayne — Clinton met with an intimate group of less than 100 Third District Iowa Democrats.
“It’s very nostalgic,” Clinton — skipping her trademark pantsuit for a more casual striped shirt and slacks — said of the intimate gathering. “I spent all those years with Bill in Arkansas and we used to campaign under trees from one part of state to the other. We were outdoors all the time. We were in cattle barns, rodeos, wherever two or more gathered. We had so much fun. It was harder to do that in a national campaign, but it’s easier in Iowa than in anywhere else. That’s why being here with you is so meaningful to me.”
Trump’s rally, by contrast, was engineered to bring in a big crowd, with a free catered barbecue spread attracting many families, giving the event a celebratory affair. Attendees were even encouraged to take the extra food home. What looked like a campaign bus emblazoned with “TRUMP” stood in front of the entrance (though Trump arrived and left in a separate SUV).
“Hillary’s favored to win — not against me, she’s not favored to win,” Trump said.
He betrayed a little insecurity in going after Walker, who he said was “finally” fair game because one of the governor’s donors had called him a “dumb-dumb.”
She, despite new questions about her email use as secretary of state, was calm and at ease, at times seeming within an inch of suggesting she already is the Democratic nominee.
“Once we get into this contest we’ll be able to show… our ideas are superior,” Clinton said.
“But don’t be mistaken: This will be a tough election,” she averred, before touting her history of tussling with Republicans. “I’ve got scar tissue to show what it takes to stand up to the other side, and I will do just that.”
Trump — with many of his now signature asides about his wife, golf and his business acumen — meandered through his remarks, hitting on immigration, veterans, competition with China and Japan and his problems with the rest of the Republican Party and Washington. “We use Caroline Kennedy in Japan. She couldn’t even believe she got the job. They said ‘Would you like the job?’; she said ‘Really?’ — but my daughter Ivanka likes her, so she has to be a good person,” Trump said as he ridiculed the current administration’s negotiating skills.
Clinton dutifully went through her policy-heavy stump speech, ticking through her opposition to big money in politics and her support for early-childhood education, the Affordable Care Act, gay rights and elder care. She didn’t mention her Democratic primary opponents, even though former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley had just serenaded the crowd with three songs, including a stirring rendition of “This Land Is Your Land.”
Trump, though, had lots to say about Walker.
“Wisconsin’s doing terribly. It’s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them. They’re borrowing money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus, and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion. The schools are a disaster. The hospitals and education was a disaster. And he was totally in favor of Common Core,” he said to big cheers, adding later, “I wrote all this stuff down though I don’t need to though because I’ve got a really good memory.”
Trump was also sure to sell the crowd on his resume: “I’m very good with contracts, don’t you want that? … I went to Wharton School of Finance. I was a really good student.”
He obliquely responded to criticism of his slam of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and criminals, and his attack on Arizona Sen. John McCain as a fraudulent war hero.
“If it wasn’t for me, you would’ve never heard of a ‘sanctuary city’” he said.
Trump also touted his relationship with veterans, asking a staff member to bring to the stage a foot-high stack of papers, what he said were hundreds of letters veterans had written to him in just the past day.
“Veterans are being treated like third-class citizens in this country and they’re our best,” Trump said as many in the crowd waved “Veterans for Trump” signs. “No one fights for the veterans like me.”
But all the bluster has yet to put him in the lead in Iowa, where he trails Walker in recent polls.
“Will you please put me in first place so I feel better?” he asked the crowd.