Hillary Says She's (Still) Ready to Lead

010308 clinton3 web 0 Hillary Says She's (Still) Ready to LeadHillary Clinton almost seemed optimistic.

After her stinging nine-point defeat at the hands of Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses, Clinton told a ballroom full of dejected but cheering supporters at her campaign headquarters in the Hotel Fort Des Moines, “We’re going to take this enthusiasm and go right to New Hampshire.”

Standing on a stage in front of Bill Clinton, her mother, her daughter and her most high-profile supporters, Hillary said the incredibly high turnout sent a clear signal to the country that “we are going to have change and that change will be a Democratic president in 2009.”

Clinton, dressed in a black pantsuit and smiling persistently, congratulated both Barack Obama and John Edwards, who she also appeared to finished behind according to (rounded-off) figures provided by the Democratic Party. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Obama had 38 percent, Edwards finished with 30 percent and Clinton finished with 29 percent.

There will now be serious, and painful, discussion within the Clinton campaign about it was a monumental misstep to compete in a state where she started with little infrastructure and where her best political asset, her husband, had not competed in 1992.

In her concession speech, Clinton said she the intense campaigning, while unsuccessful, was not fruitless.

“I am ready as I can be after having had this incredible experience here in Iowa,” she said. She added, “We have always planned to run a national campaign.”

If the speech, and the last few weeks of campaigning are any indication, Clinton will continue to try to run on a message not only of experience and preparedness, but of change.

“We’re not just trying to elect a president,” she said. “We are trying to change our country.”

With Wesley Clark, Madeleine Albright, Terry McAuliffe, David Paterson, Antonio Villaraigosa and other high-profile supporters looking on, Mrs. Clinton told the crowd she was ready to move on.

“I am so ready for the rest of this campaign,” she said, “and I am so ready to lead.”