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Any question whether Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry Sunday was really just a Hillary Clinton campaign event in disguise could be dismissed by a look at its logistical priorities: The event had a surfeit of “Ready for Hillary” buttons, T-shirts, and bumper stickers, and there were not enough toilets. (The Des Moines Register reported, in a delightfully polite deadpan, “Everybody appeared to be patient with the lines, but waits of 30 minutes or more were required.”)

But, technically, there were not enough candidates for it to be a Hillary Clinton campaign event.

It’s also not clear that she gave a campaign speech. She did her usual half-joking play at obvious disingenuousness, saying the impending birth of her grandchild was foremost in her mind and, “Then, of course, there’s that other thing. It is true I am thinking about it.” That joking tone can only be sustained for so long. (One volunteer gave an exaggerated eye roll when I asked about it.) And it’s very difficult to play the reluctant warrior when the guy standing next to you exudes gleeful eagerness.

Harkin himself did Hillary no favors when his introduction of Bill included an anecdote about an earlier steak fry, when the heavens parted the moment Clinton took the stage: “The clouds disappeared, the sun came out.” There’s being in someone’s shadow and then there’s being compared with a demigod. Perhaps Hillary deserves more credit for taking up as much room on the stage as she does. That Bill gave his decidedly more deft speech after Hillary’s can’t be anything but a tacit admission of how difficult an act he is to follow.

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