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Liberal activists in Iowa like what they’re hearing from Hillary Clinton so far — but they’re craving more details. 

The candidate who ran from the center in 2008 is casting herself as a champion of “everyday” Americans for 2016. 

She’s traveling to Iowa in a family vehicle she is said to call “the Scooby Van,” destined not for huge rallies but for two comparatively small events: a roundtable discussion at a community college on Tuesday and a visit to a small business the next day. 

{mosads}For progressive Iowa Democrats who are the key to winning the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, it’s all grounds for optimism. 

Still, they are eager to see whether her campaign measures up to its initial promises on both ideology and tone. 

“It’s a good sign, but these are just the first few days,” said Chris Schwartz, an Iowa organizer with progressive group Americans for Democratic Action. “What is going to really matter is what happens between now and February,” when the caucuses are scheduled to be held.

So far, Clinton is not offering detailed policy prescriptions for the country. 

“There are a lot of people who want to know who the real Hillary Clinton is,” said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Iowa. “Where does she stand on various issues? What would be the meaning of a Hillary Clinton presidency? For many people, the idea that she could be the first female president is nice, but it isn’t sufficient.”

Some progressives would like that “real Hillary” to be a more assertive left-winger.

“I don’t know if I would say we have reservations, but, yes, we would like to see her move more toward the progressive side, the left, of the party,” said Sue Dinsdale, executive director of another liberal group, Iowa Citizen Action Network.

Many liberals had hoped that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would enter the fray. 

Warren is leading opposition from the left to President Obama’s call for fast-track trade authority, which would make it easier for his administration to negotiate trade deals by preventing Congress from amending them. 

She also opposed the Obama-backed government-funding measure approved by Congress last December because of a change to the Wall Street reform law.

She’s put income inequality at the center of her message, arguing for policies that would narrow the gap between the wealthiest and poorest Americans, which has widened under Obama.  

Skepticism about Clinton has deep roots among left-wingers in Iowa, created in large part by recollections of her first run for the White House. 

Many activists felt that the former first lady viewed the state’s tradition of retail politics with ambivalence or even distaste. Meanwhile, memories of her Senate vote backing the Iraq War were much fresher in 2008 than they are now.

“I think her support for the war in Iraq hurt her. I think she wasn’t populist enough on economic issues. And she wasn’t accessible enough,” Schwartz said. “People in Iowa want to know they can go to a town hall that is not going to feel like a scripted event, where they can ask hard questions and get real answers.”

Faced with such lingering doubts, the current Clinton campaign’s answer amounts to: Message received.

“What we are trying to do is make it very clear that this isn’t about her, this isn’t about us, this is about Iowans,” a Clinton campaign aide in the state said during a Monday morning conference call with reporters previewing the candidate’s first visit. “We want to listen. … We understand one thing: We have to earn this.”

This attitude is comparable in many ways to the “listening tour” Clinton conducted in New York state when she was first seeking a U.S. Senate seat in 2000. She won that race easily — a stark contrast to her third-place finish in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, a stunning defeat from which her campaign never really recovered.

Even neutral observers of the state’s politics believe that Clinton has gotten off to a better start this time around than she did eight years ago.

“She doesn’t need to do rallies” at this point, said David Yepsen, who covered the caucuses for decades as a reporter for The Des Moines Register and is now the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

“First of all, if she did rallies, she’d be compared to other candidates and the crowd sizes would be compared to Obama’s last time, and she doesn’t need all that. Secondly, this enables her to be seen as introducing herself.”

While Clinton is touring Iowa, her challenge is to persuade Iowans that her humility is authentic.

“Part of what is important in this listening tour is whether she can indicate to people that she really does mean it,” Goldford said. “She needs to disarm critics who will say she will do whatever she needs to do to be president.”

This story was updated at 8:08 a.m.

Tags Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton

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