Live

Watch CBSN Live

Are young Iowa voters ready for Hillary?

Iowa was the beginning of Hillary Clinton's undoing in 2008. Despite the aura of inevitability that surrounded her (admittedly, that aura seems stronger in 2016 so far), she ended up finishing in third place in the Iowa caucuses, eight percentage points behind then-Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. The loss was in part due to a dismal showing among voters under 30 years of age, 57 percent of whom caucused for Obama. Just 11 percent went to Clinton.

Will that be the case in 2016? Clinton has promised a laser-like focus on Iowa voters and their concerns and says she'll spend plenty of time getting to know people there. She heads back to Iowa Tuesday for her fourth trip to the state since she announced her candidacy. But Iowa's youngest Democratic voters - the millennials in their 20s and 30s - tell CBS News that they aren't ready to go all in for Clinton.

"I talk to some of my friends and they're already on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon and they're going to do whatever it takes to make sure she's elected and then I have some other friends who maybe aren't quite as excited or maybe really just want to hear more about what people have to say about the issues before they make their decision," said Nathan Erickson, who says he's interested in hearing more from Webb and O'Malley. "I think that Democrats and the American public as a whole would benefit from a good, strong primary on both sides and then a good general election."

Democrats' mixed reception as Hillary Clinton takes campaign to Iowa

Clinton is likable enough, as then-Sen. Obama remarked in a 2008 debate. But these young voters just may like someone else more. Kimberly Boggus, who is active in local Democratic politics in the Des Moines neighborhood of Beaverdale, said that she thought Clinton was "an amazing and accomplished woman" in 2008, but she ended up voting for Edwards. In 2016, she said she's still considering her options because there are "tons of qualified Democrats" Iowans want to hear from.

Megan Bendixen, a young Democrat in her 20s, liked Clinton enough to caucus for her in 2008 - but she says she's "still interested in hearing from other candidates." Ryan Crane, who is in his early 30s and caucused for Edwards in 2008, said, "I'm trying to kick the tires on all of them."

"Hillary Clinton of course has a certain air of inevitability...but you know she didn't do great in Iowa, as we all remember in 2008, so it is beneficial to keep an open mind and look at all the candidates."

Ravi Patel, a 29-year-old Iowa Democrat who mounted a brief bid for Congress in Iowa's 1st District earlier this year, said he hasn't seen voters his age start flocking to a single candidate just yet.

"Once everyone gets here and we start hearing their ideas, the conversations that they're having, I think at that point some will rise above the rest," he said.

Hillary Clinton holds first large 2016 campaign rally

There are already four other candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, and they have no intention of just ceding the state to Clinton. Two of the other candidates, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is an independent, have all proven able to capture a crowd, and some voters seem receptive to former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who jumped into the race last week. Sanders has even surged in recent polls, with 33 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers calling him their first choice in a recent Quinnipiac poll (52 percent said the same of Clinton).

"There's a lot of support for Hillary in Iowa but Iowans do take the caucuses very seriously; they know that this isn't a coronation of any candidate, they know that they will take the time to meet with these candidates, go to events with them, listen to what they have to say, listen to their vision for the country, and then make a decision. This isn't something where they have their minds set from the start, Sam Roecker, a young Democratic political consultant in the state said.

The biggest mistake Clinton could make, he said, is not spending enough time in Iowa.

That sentiment was echoed by Rob Barron, a member of the Des Moines school board in his mid-30s who used to work for former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin.

"She's going to have to work very hard across the state to secure that support because she's going to get strong competition," he said, mentioning Webb, O'Malley and Sanders. Sanders in particular is "doing a really good job in college campuses and college town connecting with the students and professors which is going to be a soft spot for Secretary Clinton and an area where she will not necessarily be as comfortable as Sanders will be," he said.

What are the challenges for Hillary Clinton?

Kevin Patrick, who first came to Iowa in 2008 to work for the Obama campaign, said it would be a "huge mistake" for Clinton to run a campaign similar to the one she ran in Iowa in 2008. It was only the Clinton that he saw in the later Texas and Ohio primaries who had enough "grit" to fight for the nomination.

So far, these young voters largely said they think Clinton recognizes the importance of campaigning in Iowa. Several said the team she has put together is very strong. Jordan Murphy, who is in his late 20s, said that in 2008 Clinton had trouble connecting voters. This time, he said, he doesn't think she'll have that issue.

Fortunately for her, Clinton's campaign focus tends to dovetail with the issues that young Iowa voters said matter most to them. Nearly every single voter in their 20s and 30s who spoke with CBS News named income inequality as a top concern in 2016.

"I want someone who speaks to the Americans up and down, from coast to coast," Boggus said. "Quality education, affordable wages, a living wage. Those are some of the things that we need and I'm looking for candidates to answer those tough questions and come up with some solutions."

Clinton made fighting for everyday families a key message of her campaign and warned about the deck being stacked in favor of those at the top of the economic ladder. She has also talked about education and student loans, another one of the most frequently-mentioned issues among young Democrats. She has talked about reducing debt for college students as much as possible.

Young voters, "want somebody who is a strong Democrat who knows why they're a Democrat, who has a vision that aligns with Democratic principles," Roecker said. "They also want somebody who has a clear path for accomplishing something; they don't want a candidate who has these great ideas and no idea how to get it done."

Other issues the young Democrats mentioned as top priorities include affordable health insurance, marriage equality, women's reproductive rights, the environment, and reducing the influence of money in politics.

One thing that the young voters who spoke with CBS News tended to agree on was that Clinton's age would not hold her back from winning the nomination.

Clinton officially launches campaign

"I don't think age will be what factors into the decision. I think it will be more about ideas and conversations being had," Patel said. Roecker's take was, "If you're a healthy candidate and you have good ideas to run on, you have experience to get those things done, I don't think voters are going to discount you as a candidate just because of your age."

Same for Boggus - experience trumps age. Erickson said it's an important part of the discussion about a potential candidate, but not as important as what they have to say and how they've represented their constituents in the past.

Crane said a candidate's energy can offset their age, noting that he thought 2008 GOP nominee John McCain ran into trouble because his energy levels reminded voters that he was an older candidate.

"I think that you'll definitely get voters that will evaluate her solely based on age but that will be a very small part of the electorate. I think most people are looking for ideas," Barron said. "We Iowans, we go through this every four years. We're used to it. We would never write someone off just because they're older than we are or younger than we are. We want to see the whole package."

View CBS News In