DES MOINES, Iowa — Madeleine Albright danced onstage to "I'm a Believer," trying to move the listless crowd in the small hotel ballroom. Instead, she symbolized all that plagues Hillary Clinton's campaign: old, establishment, out of touch with today.
Political pros and pundits considered the New York senator inevitable just a few weeks ago, with endorsements galore and the well-tuned Clinton machine humming along.
But her third-place finish in Thursday's Iowa caucuses made it clear that Clinton was on the wrong side of a steamroller; that something more than a mundane, poll-tested, establishment-approved campaign was moving the voters of Iowa.
Here at the Fort Des Moines Hotel, the Clinton "celebration" didn't feel like much of one. Burly security guards prevented reporters from talking to the Clinton supporters milling around in the anteroom outside the main ballroom. The ballroom was surprisingly small, the type of room a campaign rents to make a crowd of a couple of hundred seem boisterous.
Onto the stage trudged her husband, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Albright, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe and others — a graying collection of ghosts from the 1990s.
When Clinton took the stage to concede defeat, she pledged to run hard, but seemed to be giving a pep talk to herself as much as to her supporters: "I am so ready to lead!"
And she added, sounding fatalistic, she remained confident and optimistic about her campaign, "but maybe more importantly, about our country."
Clinton pledged to run hard in New Hampshire, but there are only five days to change the narrative, to convince Democratic voters wowed by a charismatic newcomer that a trip back to the `90s is the change they seek.
The crowd abandoned the ballroom almost immediately after Clinton left the stage, leaving tables of empty beer bottles and a floor littered with tattered campaign signs.