Clinton hits the road in 'Scooby' van as newly minted candidate

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2015 4:43 PM

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As a private citizen, Hillary Clinton flew on private jets to lucrative speaking engagements. As a Democratic presidential candidate, she is logging her first 1,000 miles in a GMC van.

Clinton's decision to drive 16 hours to her first campaign appearance in Iowa in a van nicknamed "Scooby" is a statement of purpose for a candidate who has vowed to champion the concerns of regular Americans, even as she faces criticism for her opulent lifestyle.

"Road trip! Loaded the van and set off for IA," Clinton wrote on Twitter on Sunday night, several hours after announcing her candidacy in an Internet video.

As of Monday afternoon, Clinton's Twitter feed had not logged any stops. Media outlets waited for hours outside her childhood home in Park Ridge, Illinois, an affluent Chicago suburb, before giving up.

Clinton's aides are seeking a low-key campaign rollout to avoid the perception of entitlement that hampered her failed 2008 bid. Her first events on Tuesday and Wednesday in Iowa, the state where the 2016 presidential nominating contests begin, will be roundtables with small groups of voters rather than big rallies.

As first lady in the 1990s, Clinton flew on Air Force One and traveled in motorcades. As a globe-hopping secretary of state under President Barack Obama, she typically had a customized Boeing 757 at her command. After stepping down in 2013, she traveled by private jet to deliver speeches that paid more than $200,000 apiece.

Now she's driving from her home in Chappaqua, New York, with two close aides, Huma Abedin and Nick Merrill, in the black conversion van that has shuttled her to work for the past several years.

The Secret Service typically handles the driving; Clinton hasn't driven herself since 1996. Additional security are accompanying her in one or two other vehicles, aides said.

The road trip offers Clinton a chance to interact with voters free of the heavy media presence that has trailed her since she first became a national figure as the wife of then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who was elected president in 1992.

Aides said the trip was Clinton's idea, and that they were not sure they were going to make it public until CNN received a tip from someone who spotted her in Pennsylvania.

Clinton has nicknamed the van "Scooby," staffers say, in a reference to the vehicle driven by the crime-fighting troupe in the 1970s cartoon "Scooby Doo."

The trip will take her through Pennsylvania and Ohio, two states she won in her primary battle with then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008, as well as Indiana and then Illinois, the state where she grew up.

"To meet Americans where they are, it helps to be where they are," said Democratic strategist Kenneth Baer. "This van road trip will join the Clinton '92 bus tour and the Gore '00 riverboat cruise as a genius way to connect with voters and build momentum."

(Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Arshad Mohammed and Joshua Lott; Editing by John Whitesides and Jonathan Oatis)