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McAuliffe says Iowa more important than ever

By Staff | Dec 6, 2007

ESTHERVILLE–If you’ve been getting a lot of calls asking your opinion about which candidate you’re supporting in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, there’s a good reason.

You could very well be selecting the next president.

“I think Iowa’s role in this is more important than ever,” Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s national campaign manager, said in an interview Wednesday with the Daily News. McAuliffe pointed to the fact that 23 states are in line to hold their primaries, and in Iowa’s case, a caucus, by Feb. 5. “I think it’s going to be over the evening of Feb. 5,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe acknowledged that he has said from the beginning that the presidential race would be a tough campaign. “I think it’s a jump ball right now,” he said.

However, he also said Clinton is the best equipped to lead the country.

“Hillary’s the most qualified candidate,” McAuliffe said. “She can take charge tomorrow. There’s no learning curve for Hillary Clinton. She’s smart, she’s tough, she’s effective.”

As former Democratic national chair, McAuliffe is perhaps in a unique position to judge a candidate’s chances. Regardless of his obvious preference, he did observe that Clinton, like her husband, has already weathered criticism presidentially.

“You cannot find one senator that will say anything unkind about Hillary Clinton,” McAuliffe said. “She stands up and fights when she has to.”

McAuliffe pointed to the fact that Clinton has had the highest rating on leadership and in leading the fight against terrorism among the other Democratic presidential contenders.

Having known Clinton for 27 years, McAuliffe is perhaps in a position to see how she has evolved. One area in which that change has occurred is from her initial personal mission to offer universal health care coverage when she was first lady to her program today. “She learned by all those mistakes,” McAuliffe said. “This new plan of hers is all about choices.”

McAuliffe noted that U.S. generals had selected Clinton as the only senator to sit on an Iraq study commission. “I think she has the support of the Pentagon,” he said, noting that Clinton realizes that “you don’t get 162,000 troops out overnight.”

In the area of education, McAuliffe said as first lady of Arkansas Clinton revamped the state’s entire education system. He said she’ll work to ensure college education for anyone who wants one.

Clinton has sponsored legislation to force lenders to be clear on mortgage rate changes. McAuliffe noted that with 1.8 million home foreclosure notices filed this year, Clinton wants a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures, to freeze subprime rates, and to work to have real accountability among lenders.

One obvious asset that Clinton would bring to the White House IS her husband, a former two-term president, said McAuliffe. Hillary would use her husband as a “roaming ambassador at large” with a particular focus on the Mideast where he came close to sealing a peace agreement before he left office.

With women representing 54 percent of the vote in 2004, McAuliffe said Clinton will stand to benefit from that voting bloc. “That number I believe will go up substantially,” he said, noting that there is nothing better for women’s self-image than to have a woman president. He said Clinton often talks to groups about having support from both young women and women in their 70s and beyond who are overwhelmingly excited about her candidacy.

While some fairly sharp barbs have already been thrown in the Democratic primary, McAuliffe said Clinton is willing to continue to engage fellow Democratic presidential contenders on the issues. “Obviously there is a very spirited debate going on,” he said.

McAuliffe said Clinton is probably the least polarizing candidate he’s seen. He said she would have both Democrats and Republicans work together to iron out problems.

As far as the campaign is concerned, he said Clinton is focused on the election at hand, the caucus and primaries, rather than eyeing the general election just yet.

McAuliffe said the voting bloc that Clinton will benefit most from is women. Beyond that, he said the 47 million people without health care in America have a vested interest in having Clinton as president. “I think health care is the number-one domestic issue affecting most Americans,” McAuliffe said.

With undecideds in Iowa standing at 50-60 percent, McAuliffe said their impact will be “huge” in the Jan. 3 primary.

“The undecideds are the key,” he said.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com