Some of their harshest comments were reserved for the media, and particularly cable television hosts and pundits - a complaint the Clinton campaign has repeated for months. From the day of Iowa's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, an annual Democratic fundraiser last fall at which all the candidates spoke, Obama, whose well-received speech was seen as a turning point in his campaign, became the "media darling," Olafsen said. "Early on she was proclaimed the queen, and then he was crowned. And it became a case of don't let anything get in the way of this train." Obama was a blank slate, and Clinton was the caricature, Olafsen says, portrayed as "being difficult and bitchy - they love that word. For a woman, it's a fine line. Too much [strength] is bitchy and too little, you're a weakling. She carried all of those caricatures as excess baggage, and that's a heavy load."
They are contemplating Clinton's end game, especially now that former presidential candidate John Edwards, the second-place finisher in Iowa's caucuses, has endorsed Obama. "She needs to go through this in a magnanimous, gracious way," says Kolmer, who when asked if she'll vote for Obama replied: "Hell, yes."
A vice presidential slot for Clinton? Maybe, says Donna Buell, 47, a lawyer in Spirit Lake. "I would like to see Hillary become either Senate Majority leader or vice president, nothing less," Buell says.
Clinton may not be the nominee in the end, says Kolmer, but "a helluva lot of people wanted her to be." And by remaining in the game, several women say, she has only made Obama a stronger candidate.
Says Stough: "I hope she gives her concession speech at the convention. She deserves it."