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Hillary Clinton rallies young voters in Iowa City with Demi Lovato

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is joined by singer Demi Lovato at a campaign event in Iowa City, Iowa, United States, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
REUTERS

IOWA CITY Hillary Clinton rallied 1,700 Iowans in Iowa City on Thursday night with a little help from a big star: singer Demi Lovato.

"I don't think there's a woman more confident than Hillary Clinton," Lovato said, after singing her popular song, "Confident."

Clinton joined Lovato on stage, trading her usual Katy Perry and Sara Barielles numbers for an instrumental version of Lovato's hit single, and thanked her.

"She is using her voice not only to sing and inspire us," Clinton said, "She's using her voice to reach out to so many people who need a little bit of help themselves."

Lovato, 23, has been vocal about her long, and at times very public, struggle with mental health and substance abuse, two issues that are now central to Clinton's agenda and her pitch to voters on the campaign trail.

Clinton has a deep bench of surrogates who have appeared with her at campaign events or held their own events in Iowa, and some of them, like Lovato, have particular appeal with younger voters. Perry performed for Clinton supporters ahead of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, and Lena Dunham, wearing a red, white and blue outfit emblazoned with the candidate's name, drew voters from hours away to see her here earlier this month.

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives with singer Katy Perry during a campaign rally with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa, October 24, 2015.

Scott Morgan/Reuters

Younger voters were a large part of President Obama's success in the state eight years ago. This cycle, those voters so far favor Bernie Sanders.

According to the latest Iowa poll by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, Sanders leads Clinton 59 percent to 27 percent among those younger than 45 and by 52 percent to 34 percent among people who plan to caucus for the first time. And Iowa City is in the middle of Story County, one of the counties where support for Sanders is concentrated around college campuses. Some in the crowd, much larger than Clinton's other events in Indianola and Vinton on Thursday, were Sanders fans.

Devan Rittler, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Iowa, said that she is leaning toward caucusing for Sanders on February 1. But she said the opportunity to see Clinton in person, or any presidential candidate, is "empowering" to her and an opportunity not to be missed.

Rittler, who also caucused eight years ago, said she believes Sanders can win Iowa because of the way he has been "slowly but surely" connecting with voters.

"Just in the last few weeks, I've seen it really take off," she said. "I think that's really indicative of how the campaign is progressing."

Clinton supporter Morgan Smith, a 25-year-old graduate student who is from Minnesota but will vote in Iowa this year, said she wasn't nervous about Sanders' rise.

"He's refreshing to the Democratic party and politics in general," Smith said. "I think Hillary just exudes competence. She's so brilliant, clearly, and I think she's a much more pragmatic leader."

She added: "I believe in the system."

Clinton spoke for less than five minutes at the event before stepping up to the ropeline with Lovato, who took selfies and signed autographs for her fans -- regardless of their politics. One 21-year-old Republican from Waterloo, who did not want to be named, said she drove an hour and a half to see Lovato.

"I have loved her forever," she said. "This might be my only chance to see her."

Clinton will continue to campaign in Iowa over the weekend and into next week, but in addition, her campaign is dispatching multiple high-profile supporters to speak with voters she won't reach during the final week before the caucus. They include EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and famed tennis player Billie Jean King, among others.

David Noriega, 32, said Clinton's use of surrogates, especially of the celebrity variety, is a good strategy to include more people in the political process. He said his 9-year-old son was excited to see Lovato on Thursday.

"She's reaching out for the younger crowd," said Noriega, who said he plans to caucus for Clinton, along with his mother. "They're here to see Demi [but] they're also going to hear what Hillary has to say."