Thirty-five years after his relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton began, South Carolina's Don Fowler is doing his part to rescue an imperiled political franchise. He and other Clinton loyalists are arguing that Hillary is still the most electable Democratic presidential candidate, despite what the people of Iowa said last week.
"She's in much better position to pursue New Hampshire," said Fowler of Columbia. "She has a base of personal supporters up there that were not possible in Iowa. We feel pretty strongly that we're going to win."
The thinking in the Clinton camp, as Fowler told The Herald, is that if the race can get back to policy matters such as health care and foreign policy, Hillary's strong points will shine through.
"There's no question the change mantra became Senator Obama's strength," Fowler said. "But to talk about change without being substantive ... is superficial. When you look at what she has to say as compared to the other candidates, it's clear that her change is more progressive, it spreads to more people and it is more certain of success."
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That message dovetails with what Clinton is telling voters as she crisscrosses the Granite State, telling voters that she can withstand the Republican attacks. But to Obama supporters, it's a dated mentality.
The margin of Obama's win in Iowa shows that voters are looking for a new style, said former S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges, who joined the Obama campaign last week. Obama won in Iowa by eight points, with John Edwards and Clinton behind him.
"I'm an FOB (Friend of Bill) as well, but it doesn't change the fact that I think Obama is the right candidate," Hodges told The Herald. "If you look at the rallies that Obama holds, you compare it to the energy at the Clinton rallies, there's a substantial difference. But more specifically, you go to a state like Iowa that's 97 percent white, that tells you something about how people are responding to him."
Clinton camp foresaw Iowa result
Fowler met Bill Clinton for the first time in 1972 shortly after the future president returned from studying at Oxford. Clinton had come to Columbia to help organize a rally for Sarge Shriver, then the vice presidential candidate on George McGovern's ticket.
"This long, tall, skinny guy from Arkansas," is how Fowler recalls his young counterpart. Fowler went on to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the two have remained friends since.
As caucus day approached, Fowler said Hillary Clinton's internal Iowa poll numbers pointed to a disappointing result. One positive is that Iowa winnowed the field, he said, putting the remaining candidates under tougher scrutiny. Edwards now is considered a long shot because he pinned his hopes on winning Iowa.
"When you move from four or five to two people, the exchanges get a little sharper just by necessity because the scope of conversation is more narrow," Fowler said. "But I don't think you're going to get any ill will, any bad behavior."
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