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Hillary tries to stay above the fray

From NBC's Christina Jamison and Mark Murray
KEOKUK, IA – After yesterday's day without fireworks on the Clinton campaign trail, the press corps assumed this morning it'd be more of the same. On the press bus this morning, spokesman Jay Carson said we'd see "no fireworks" and that we'd see a composed and confident candidate hammering home her message to Iowans.  

Well, the candidate was certainly calm and composed, but there were definitely some fireworks. Early in the stump speech, Clinton said her leading rivals, Obama and Edwards, were talking about each other and not the issues. "My two leading opponents have spent a lot of time right now kind of, you know, talking about each other," she said. "I'm gonna keep talking about the people of Iowa and the people of America."
Clinton also addressed the fiery talk of special interests in the campaign, saying that it makes for "great applause lines." But she said that talk wasn't solving problems.

"It's something you don't have to do by yelling and screaming," she said. "Save your energy, get the job done." She went on to say, "Instead of like, generating a lot of heat, rolling your hands, jumping up and down, let's just sit down and figure out how we're gonna beat them." (Of course, in November, Clinton memorably unveiled the slogan, "Turn up the heat."

When later asked if Clinton was referring to Obama or Edwards with those comments, Carson said no. "She's continuing to focus on laying out her positive vision," he said. "The last thing she's going to do is get down in a negative back-and-forth with any of her opponents."

Clinton also stressed the importance Iowa plays in the election process. While she's mentioned this in the last couple of days of her stump speeches, she seemed to take extra care to mention more than once her enthusiasm for the Iowa caucuses, perhaps in response to campaign surrogate and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's comments to the Columbus Dispatch that the Iowa caucuses "make no sense" and that they are "hugely undemocratic" because the process "excludes so many people."

"You're here for a reason," Clinton said. "You're here to make up your minds about who you think should be the next president. And Iowa gets to go first for a purpose, because you take this so seriously."  She continued, "I am so impressed as I travel across the state the way people come and watch all of us and listen and compare notes with family members and friends."

Clinton also took five questions from the audience members, ranging from her stance on abortion to how she plans to pay for her initiatives and lead in toys.