CEDAR FALLS, Iowa, Jan 27, (Agencies): When Bernie Sanders rolled into Decorah, nearly 2,300 people were waiting for him. Chants of “Feel the Bern” filled the spirited hall from a crowd roughly equivalent to a quarter of the town’s population. “If we have the kind of turnout that I hope we can,” Sanders told the rally, “then we’re going to win here in Iowa.” Two days later, on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton received a far less raucous greeting in the same northeastern Iowa college town. A largely elderly crowd of 450 listened quietly, clapping politely at her applause lines.
It’s all beginning to resemble a bad flashback for the second-time Democratic presidential candidate, who once again finds herself barnstorming through the frozen stretches of Iowa with a diminished lead in the polls and an underdog rival on the rise.
Then-Sen Barack Obama upset Clinton in Iowa, jump starting his successful campaign for the nomination. “If you go to caucus on Monday night and stand up for me there, I will work my heart out for you as your president,” Clinton said, urging her supporters to turn out for the Iowa gatherings in schools, churches and even private homes that open voting in the 2016 presidential campaign. “The stakes in this election are so high. “ “None of this is easy,” said Clinton, talking about President Barack Obama’s work on health care but also alluding to the sweeping political changes being promised by Sanders. “This is really hard, slow, painful political work to get through the thicket of objections, of special interests and powerful forces.”
Her final days in Iowa are a sprint through Iowa’s biggest cities and — more notably — small towns — as Clinton tries to stave off Sanders’ effort to turn his late boost of enthusiasm into a strong showing at the caucuses. With stronger backing in college towns and urban centers, Sanders is hoping to expand his reach and undercut her appeal in more rural areas of the state. That leaves Clinton trying to reinforce her support in places like Decorah, a town of about 8,000. Obama easily bested Clinton in the county to win the most delegates in 2008. This year, the county has 11 state delegates up for grabs, out of 1,401 statewide — far fewer than the bigger population areas. But Obama showed that Iowa is won not by concentrating support but by picking-off a winning share of delegates in a broad swath of counties. Sanders aides know their prospects in the state depend on turning those screaming fans into caucus-goers, willing to sit through an hours-long process.