Hillary Rodham Clinton shocked nobody in the media when she announced that she was running for president on Sunday – but her next move took reporters by surprise.
Clinton didn’t get on a campaign plane and head to Iowa. Instead, she and a small group of staff piled into what the candidate calls the Scooby van. They are road-tripping it to Iowa. The press was not invited.
The trip has all the makings of a campaign gimmick, but a pretty clever one as these things go. Clinton is launching into a listening tour where she is seeking meaningful conversations that are not drowned out by the spectacle of the campaign. No better way to do that than to give reporters the slip and hit the road.
Of course, this being a campaign, Clinton’s aides don’t really expect – or want – her travels to go completely unnoticed. News of the road trip became public soon after Clinton left New York on Sunday afternoon. Photos snapped by customers at a Pennsylvania gas station who chatted with the former secretary of State quickly went viral. On Sunday night, the campaign sent out its own picture on Twitter.
“Road Trip,” proclaimed the tweet. “Loaded the van & set off for IA. Met a great family when we stopped this afternoon. Many more to come. –H”
The note was accompanied by a photo of the world-famous stateswoman standing among a slightly bewildered-looking every family.
The trip made for good fodder on a phone call top Clinton staff held with donors Sunday evening.
“This was her idea, and she has been really excited about this since she came up with it, and we’ve been driving for a good part of today,” longtime Clinton advisor Huma Abedin said on the call.
“We had an interesting stop at a gas station in Pennsylvania, and I think it’s safe to say she surprised quite a few people who had just happened to stop for gas at the same time as we did. We met a wonderful family from Michigan.”
Clinton’s first interaction with voters that members of the press are invited to witness will not happen until Tuesday in Iowa.
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Times staff writer Kurtis Lee contributed to this report.