As U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard walked around tailgate parties for Homecoming weekend at the University of Iowa, one man gave her a Hawkeyes-themed Russian cossack hat. Another shouted "screw Hillary!" as Gabbard drove from party-to-party on a golf cart.
Some Iowans showed their support for Gabbard after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that Russians are "grooming" a Democratic presidential candidate to run as a third-party candidate Friday.
While Clinton did not name Gabbard, the comment appeared to be directed at the Democrat from Hawaii.
On Saturday, Gabbard said the past 24 hours had "a lot of news," but it brought to the forefront the reasons why she believes her campaign is important: it threatens the party's establishment.
Gabbard has said multiple times she is not considering a third-party run, both before and after Clinton's statement.
"She knows she can't control me," Gabbard told the Des Moines Register on Saturday. "She knows that if I'm the nominee, if I become president, she can't have any influence or any control over the kind of foreign policy I would lead our country in. Both her and her proxies and the foreign policy establishment."
Gabbard said Clinton was the "queen of warmongers" on Twitter Friday in response to her comments.
Despite the back-and-forth between Gabbard and Clinton, Gabbard was met with good cheer by Hawkeyes fans Saturday morning. A group of people at a tiki bar tailgate drank a round of Fireball whiskey shots in her honor, shouting "Tulsi time!" as she mingled with the crowd.
Maria Frazer, a 21-year-old University of Iowa student, is still deciding who she wants to support in the Iowa caucus. She's heard allegations about Gabbard's ties with Russia, but while she doesn't "necessarily buy into it," Frazer said Americans should be wary of foreign governments' influence in the presidential election.
Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a ...
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 18, 2019
"I am concerned, not necessarily about Tulsi," she said. "But it's something I'm very cautious about. I think we need to be cautious about in the future."
Chris Forbes, a 52-year-old man in Iowa City, gave Gabbard a Twinkie as they talked politics. He already committed to caucus for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, but said it's important for foreign policy to take a bigger role in the presidential election — something Gabbard brings.
He doesn't agree entirely with Gabbard's positions. Forbes said the U.S. military should still play some role in foreign conflicts, especially in cases when allies are at risk, like the Kurds in northern Syria following President Donald Trump's decision to leave the region.
"I agree that steps should be made to pull away from some of the actions of being the world's policemen," Forbes said. "But I also believe the standard of American democracy for 240 years has been to be a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. And as such, we need to have just enough present to represent that freedom and world leadership toward democracy so that all groups can feel safe in being free to stand openly for what they believe."
Gabbard said Clinton and other Democrats accusing her of being a "Russian asset" is a strategy to stop Americans from criticizing U.S. foreign policy decisions.
"This threatens our freedom of speech and is very revealing about the real motives behind this smear campaign that literally began the day I announced my candidacy for president," Gabbard said.
Robin Opsahl covers political trends for the Register. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8051. Support reporters who follow your government by becoming a subscriber. Sign up at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Tulsi Gabbard says Hillary Clinton 'knows she can't control me'