From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
JOHNSTON, IA -- As part of its final push in Iowa, the Clinton campaign held a formal launch for the Web site featuring video "testimonials" from friends, constituents, and others who have known the senator for a long time or been helped by her. The event also included a tearful appeal from a childhood friend.
The second day of Clinton's Iowa tour began in a small barn crammed with people, where a screen hung from one wall, with the "Hillary I Know" videos playing on a loop. Clinton has been spending more time recently talking on the stump about her upbringing, her mother's life, and her values. And these videos and recent appearances on the trail by her mother and daughter were a clear attempt to show Clinton's softer side -- something that may be key for early state voters. (Indeed, at a question and answer session at an event in New Hampshire over the weekend, one voter told the senator she came of "cold" and "politically calculating.")
Among those featured in the videos: Clinton's childhood friend Betsy Ebeling, supporters like Tom Vilsack and Wes Clark, and a New York mother whose daughter the senator helped get treatment for a brain disease.
Some of the people in the testimonials will be at some of Clinton's Iowa events in the coming days. Ebeling was on hand today at the barn to speak about her relationship with the former first lady. At times near tears, she talked about meeting Clinton in sixth grade. "She's loyal to her friends; she remembers them; she remembers their kids," Ebeling said. "She understands how people feel everywhere."
Ebeling said she had traveled to Iowa with about 25 long-time Clinton friends from across the country to campaign on behalf of the senator.
Clinton came on to speak warmly about the friends here today, and said she wanted to give Iowans a sense of who she is away from the TV cameras, when no one is taking notes. She told a funny story about taking off the thick glasses she had to wear in junior high and high school so that she could catch the eye of one young man or another, and how Ebeling would guide her down hallways pointing out boys to wave and smile at and keeping her from bumping into things.
"What I try to do every day is figure out how to help somebody," she said. "You can try to help somebody every single day, and I've tried to do that as a public servant, as an activist, and now as a senator," she said, adding she would do the same as president.
She continued with her usual stump speech, sprinkling in references to friends like Ebeling, joking about her weight, arguing that America needed proven leadership, and including -- once again -- her new line about the need to working hard for change. She talked about the coveted Des Moines Register endorsement to applause and said the paper had put her and the other candidates through their paces.
Before Ebeling and Clinton, Jeff Volk spoke. He described himself as an "old Republican conservative" whose family Clinton helped get out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and described the senator as caring, kind and compassionate. "We need a change in government," Volk said. He said and Clinton shared a concern about competency in government. "I can't think of anyone more prepared."
Another woman, Shannon Mallozzi, the mother from New York, said that before meeting the senator, she had a media-cultivated perception or her. "I thought she was a bit remote. I didn't know who she was," Mallozzi said.