File name: Politics
"It's been seven years, and a lot has changed," Hillary Clinton said Sunday in her first visit to Iowa since the state dealt her presidential campaign a devastating body blow.
But there was a moment in the afternoon when it seemed like not much had.
Roughly 200 credentialed media were gathered in a far corner of the Indianola Balloon Field, the grassy expanse where Sen. Tom Harkin was convening his 37th and final Steak Fry, an annual fundraiser that doubles as a point of entry for ambitious Democrats curious about the Iowa caucuses.
After a 90-minute wait, the press scrum - scribblers and photographers alike - were herded like cattle through a series of gates and escorted up to a hot smoking grill, waiting to capture the same image: a staged shot of Bill and Hillary Clinton, fresh out of their motorcade, ritualistically flipping steaks with Harkin.
The Clintons ignored the half-hearted shouted questions from reporters - "Mr. President, do you eat meat?" - with practiced ease. They were two football fields away from the nearest voter. Mechanical, distant, heavy-handed: The afternoon spectacle felt a lot like Hillary's 2008 caucus campaign, a succession of errors that crumbled under the weight of a feuding top-heavy staff and the candidate's inability to connect with her party's grassroots.
And then the head fake - and something different.