A man waving a flag with a picture of Secretary Clinton that said “Madam President,” a handful of anxious Clinton volunteers, and more Secret Servicemen and women than you could count framed the entrance to Howe Hall at Iowa State University in Ames. Unlike the small community center in rural Iowa where Ted Cruz spoke the night before, the campus venue the Clinton campaign chose was under heavy security and offered a controlled environment designed for the media. When Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Mark Kelly, and Gabby Giffords took the stage, they were flanked by a carefully selected group of volunteers and surrounded by cameras and media, with voters squeezing into spaces along the railing of the second and third floors.
Clinton had gathered Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords to talk about gun control, an issue that distinguishes her from her opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders but is touchy for many gun-owning Iowans. One Clinton supporter, a naturalized citizen born in India, was surprised by the prevalence of guns in America and supported Clinton’s stances on tougher gun laws. Most supporters, however, believed in the 2nd amendment and gun ownership—they simply wanted more common-sense restrictions and more background checks.
When Gabby Giffords took the stage, the emotion in the room was palpable. Still recovering from the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, nearly five years ago, Giffords struggled to the front of the stage and gave a short but powerful and enthusiastic speech. “Speaking is hard for me,” she explained, “but come January, I want to say these two words: Madame President.” The crowd exploded in cheers, not just for Clinton but for Giffords, her tenacious recovery, and what the crowd considered to be reasonable conclusions drawn from her tragedy.
Hillary Clinton took the stage, and seized on the emotion in the room. The crowd remained silent as she listed off mass shootings in the United States. Clinton decried the “fear and misinformation” disseminated by the gun lobby and asked the audience, “What is wrong with us?” In a state with large numbers of gun owners and a commitment to the 2nd amendment, a state voting to lower the age at which a resident can purchase a firearm, Clinton is making a bold play at Iowa voters before Monday’s caucus.