Whatever public sympathy Hillary Clinton had built up during the tense hostage situation at her New Hampshire campaign office appeared to dissipate Saturday, as she was met with a round of boos during an address over the phone to an Iowa political event.
At the Heartland Presidential Candidates Forum in Des Moines, community activists lustily booed the Democratic frontrunner after she declined to commit to passing comprehensive immigration reform in her first 100 days in office.
Clinton showed up in person, along with the six other candidates, for an evening forum before African-American and Hispanic activists.
In the early forum, Clinton said reform would be a "high priority" for her, but that didn't satisfy a crowd looking for legislation that would move illegal immigrants swiftly on a path to legalization.
Former radio talk show host John Ziegler also made an off-color Clinton comment Saturday while introducing GOP candidate Fred Thompson at an event in California.
"In case you missed it, some nut job broke in (Clinton's campaign office) and took hostages and apparently threatened to blow himself up unless he got a chance to speak to Hillary," Ziegler said. "Now, I found this rather odd because I always feel like blowing myself up after I hear Hillary Clinton speak."
The unfettered nastiness was a sign that things are back to normal on the campaign trail, after the hostage situation resolved peacefully. With the days dwindling until the leadoff Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the infrastructure of the Clinton campaign swiftly got back on track.
The tenor of the evening debate was more restrained as the Democratic candidates answered questions about racial equality.
Clinton repeated her calls for universal healthcare and said she would fight to address illegal immigration.
"I intend to stand for and pass comprehensive immigration reform when I'm president," she said.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama said he was trailing Clinton among minority voters nationwide because many are unfamiliar with him and his voting record.
"African-American voters, until they get to know you and know your track record, they're going to be asking questions," Obama said. "My job is to get better known in this race."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio called for a single-payer health care system.
"I am the only one running for president who stands for a not-for-profit health care system," he said. "I know there are people running for president who claim that's not possible."
Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut pointed to a 26-year record of fighting for issues aimed at helping cities and promoting minority rights.
"This is critical for all of us," said Dodd. "I think it's important to do the hard questioning. Where have you been on these issues? Speeches are easy, rhetoric is cheap."
Clinton’s campaign offices across the country were reopened Saturday morning after closing Friday as a precaution. Other candidates who evacuated nearby offices like Barack Obama also reopened them Saturday. And even though ugly winter weather wrecked campaign plans for candidates across the Midwest Saturday, Clinton made pains to address the Iowa forum by phone.
Her husband’s appearance at an event in Norwalk, Iowa, though, was canceled as snow, ice and rain plastered the area and closed Des Moines International Airport. GOP candidate Mitt Romney canceled all Iowa events due to weather, and Obama had to delay his appearance at the Heartland event.
It’s unclear what effect, if any, the New Hampshire standoff will now have on Clinton’s campaign. Police arrested 46-year-old Leeland Eisenberg shortly after 6 p.m. Friday, following the six-hour scenario where police said Eisenberg took at least five people hostage at Clinton’s office, demanding to speak with the candidate.
Even though taking shots at Clinton may again be fair game, the averted crisis at least gave the Democratic frontrunner temporary relief from the relentless direct attacks of her opponents, Democratic and Republican.
Just two days earlier at a Florida debate, GOP candidate Mike Huckabee had suggested strapping Clinton to “the first rocket to Mars” in response to a question about space exploration. Minutes before Eisenberg stepped into her Rochester office with what appeared to be a bomb, Clinton and Obama had been publicly and aggressively tussling over their dueling health care plans.
But as news of the hostage situation spread at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Virginia, which she was supposed to attend, well wishes poured from both sides of the aisle as candidates hoped for a peaceful resolution.
And Clinton must have scored points for projecting calm in the aftermath of the crisis.
Expressing her gratitude to those who helped end the standoff peacefully Friday before heading to New Hampshire, Clinton struck a presidential tone. She said she’d been in contact with local, state, and federal law enforcement, as well as the governor, from the beginning. Buttoned up against the Washington cold in a long black coat and tan pashmina, she was the poised image of a leader who'd been on top of the situation from the start.
"It appears that (Eisenberg) is someone who is in need of help and sought attention in absolutely the wrong way," Clinton said in Portsmouth, N.H., adding that the campaign would get back on schedule.
An aide to GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani told FOX News afterward that his campaign discussed the incident and decided it would not increase or alter current security measures.
Meanwhile, Eisenberg, who is being held without bail, is set to be arraigned on kidnapping and other charges Monday afternoon. He was due to appear in court Friday for a domestic violence hearing with his wife, who had filed for divorce just three days earlier, when he walked into Clinton’s campaign office carrying what police later said were road flares.
FOX News’ Aaron Bruns and Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.