CHARLES CITY, Iowa (AP) - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton made one thing very clear to Iowa voters Friday: She's serious about campaigning in their state.
"I'm going to be in Iowa so often I'm going to be able to caucus for myself," Clinton told attendees at town meetings here.
It was Clinton's first visit to Iowa since the leak of a detailed memo from her deputy campaign manager, who advised her to skip the state's caucuses in January and focus time and resources on states where she is faring better. Polls in Iowa have shown her consistently trailing rival John Edwards despite her strong standing nationally and in other state polls.
"I believe we need a new approach to winning the Democratic nomination," Mike Henry wrote in the seven-page memo leaked earlier this week.
Clinton and her senior advisers quickly disavowed Henry's recommendations, insisting she planned to compete vigorously in Iowa. The campaign has opened 10 offices around the state, compared with seven by Edwards and 14 by Clinton's leading rival, Barack Obama.
Clinton's Memorial Day weekend visit was the latest effort to make good on her promise, with the New York senator tackling a full schedule of campaign events. She was accompanied by the state's popular former first lady, Christie Vilsack, whose husband, former Gov. Tom Vilsack, signed on as one of Clinton's national co-chairs after dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination.
Clinton touched on a range of issues at the gatherings, including health care, food safety and the war in Iraq. But she also managed to squeeze in several items of particular interest to Iowa voters, such as her support for the production of ethanol, a corn-based fuel additive largely produced in Iowa.
"Oil companies won't even put ethanol pumps at their gas stations. They need to be required to do that," she said, responding to a question about the high price of gasoline. She drew applause from the crowd when she said she would introduced legislation requiring ethanol pumps at filling stations.
She also praised the state's popular Democratic senator, Tom Harkin.
"He's writing the next farm bill, thank goodness," she said.
Still, the flap over the controversial Iowa memo was not lost on several of the voters who attended Clinton's events.
Delbert Pratt, a retired iron worker from Nashua and a lifelong caucus-goer, said he had been "dumfounded" by the news that she was being urged to bypass Iowa.
"Iowa has always been a good Democratic state. Why would you want to skip over Iowa?" he said.