JOHNSTON, Iowa -- Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman , Terry McAuliffe wants all those concerned to know all is well in camp Clinton.
"You know, you hear this in campaigns all the time, McAuliffe said, referring to persistent reports of turmoil, panic and back-biting as Hillary's numbers slide in early primary and caucus states. "We are the front runner, everybody's been going after us. We feel very good about where we are. I'm chairman of the campaign and I can tell you we are happy. Everybody's working together. We're all focused to get people to the polls on election day and getting them to vote for Hillary Clinton, the candidate of choice and the candidate who can bring change."
Without prompting McAuliffe named names in how integrated things are in the Clinton campaign, and sounding very much like a general manager of a sports team, made sure to send a vote of confidence to campaign manager Patty Solis Doyle: "There could be 5 or 6 polls out on a day and Hillary could be up in four, but if we're down in one, that one gets played. And then all of a sudden the campaign is in trouble. Everyone outside the campaign likes to make circular firing squads. I talk to the president every day, I talk to Hillary every day and I talk to Patty Solis almost every day. We're all focused and working hard. People on the outside like to chatter, but you know that's not going to get us off our mission of getting Hillary Clinton elected."
As for Iowa, where Clinton climbed into a hard-fought lead this summer, but has seen her rise plateau and begin to erode, McAuliffe began the all-important task of managing expectations.
"You do the best you can, you lay it out. You can't look at one state as being determinate on who's going to be the nominee" McAuliffe said, responding to my direct question "Can Hillary afford to lose Iowa?"
"Iowa, great state, but if you remember, Bill Clinton did not campaign there in 1992 because Sen. Tom Harkin from Iowa was in the race. So with Hillary out there it's actually the first time the Clinton operation actually is out there campaigning."
Which brings us to New Hampshire: "It's very important for us. New Hampshire is different. President Clinton did very well in New Hampshire, he was the come back kid. We have great roots there. The president was just there. Hillary's been there many, many times. Obviously it's a very important state for us, we're going to do very well there."
McAuliffe spoke to me before Clinton New Hampshire co-chair Billy Shaheen told The Washingon Post that Barack Obama's past drug use (marijuana and cocaine) would cause electability problems because Republicans (not Democrats, mind you) would exploit the issue for political gain.
Interestingly, I asked McAuliffe about the long-running Clinton camp dialogue with reporters that there's much more that voters need to know about Obama and that his electability once all these matters were known would look different than it does today. McAuliffe would have none of it.
"I don't go out and attack other Democrats. It's just not my nature. I'll let the other candidates think for themselves but you know what? I gotta winner on my side, i got Hillary Clinton and you know what she's got a lot of people counting on her and she is gonna do great when she ultimately gets elected to be president."
McAuliffe didn't hesitate, though, when I asked him if Hillary would run negative or "comparative" TV ads against Obama in New Hampshire on the issue of universal health care.
"We're clearly going to talk about Hillary's plan versus the other democrats, absolutely. Because health care, you know the Iraq war obviously is a top issue for folks, but on the domestic front I believe its health care and probably disposable income and the economy. On heath care, no one knows more about health care than Hillary Clinton. She has laid her plan out, she covers every single American. And the other Democratic plans don't cover every single American (Garrett editorial insert: Obama's plan doesn't, John Edward's plan does). Everybody gets covered under Hillary Clinton's plan. That is a debate that you know we'll engage in, gladly engage in that debate."
So, on the eve of a crucial Iowa presidential debate, let's review.
Clinton's campaign is not panicked and there is no in-fighting; Iowa is a great state but "you do the best you can,"; New Hampshire made Bill Clinton and can make Hillary because it is "different" from Iowa because "we have great roots there"; there will be no attacking of Obama (by McAuliffe), but the campaign will atack on health care and that will be on TV and will probably wait until the race gets to New Hampshire. . .