(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren barnstormed across Iowa this weekend, seeking to put to rest questions about her electability and her ability to build a coalition to defeat Donald Trump.
With less than a month before the Feb. 3 Iowa Caucuses, the Massachusetts senator is trying to regain her momentum in a state where she had been the front-runner in the fall. A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll released Friday showed Bernie Sanders in the lead in Iowa, while Warren was virtually tied with Pete Buttigieg. National front-runner Joe Biden was in fourth place.
As her campaign put on about 15 events in the state ahead of the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines on Tuesday, she portrayed herself as the most effective Democratic standard-bearer against Trump in November. She sought to reassure caucus goers that her sweeping progressive agenda wouldn’t be an impediment to building a broad coalition if she became the Democratic nominee.
“All I can say is, Democrats, get a better sales pitch,” she said in Mason City, Iowa, on Saturday. “Fear doesn’t win. Courage and vision win.”
Weak Minority Support
Warren has weak support among African-Americans and other minority voters, who form a crucial segment of the Democratic electorate. She has also seen her advantage among women voters slip, though she maintains a base of mostly white, older progressive supporters.
She was joined in Iowa by surrogates to help her broaden her appeal. Julian Castro, who dropped out of the 2020 race earlier this year, campaigned with her Sunday in Marshalltown, where more than a third of the population is Hispanic. Castro pitched Warren as a unity candidate who could bring together a diverse coalition.
“She knows what it’s like to struggle,” said Castro, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration. “She’s about making sure that no matter who you are in this country that you have a fair shot. She can bring this party together.”
Warren also faced questions about her ability to get voters across the ideological spectrum on board with her progressive proposals. At a town hall in Mason City on Saturday, she pointed to polling that shows her wealth tax is popular among Democrats, Republicans and independents, and said many Americans share her mistrust of large corporations like Amazon and Chevron.
“We may disagree sometimes, but we are in this fight together to build a better America,” Warren said.
No to ‘Factionalism’
On Sunday, Warren called out Sanders after a report in Politico that he had instructed his campaign volunteers to tell voters leaning toward her that she would only appeal to “highly-educated, more affluent people” and is “bringing no new bases” into the party.
“We all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016 and we can’t have a repeat of that,” Warren told reporters in Marshalltown on Sunday. “We need someone who will bring our party together.”
Warren largely stuck to her campaign message at her events in Iowa this weekend: fight corruption, take the influence of money out of Washington and push for “big structural change” to America’s economic system to address issues affecting working-class families.
To convince voters that her plans are viable, Warren recalled the challenges and opposition she faced from banks when she pitched her idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama administration.
“Why can’t you make it happen? Because it hasn’t happened before?” Warren asked the crowd at a town hall in Mason City. “Well, here’s my view of the world: It’s going to happen now because it has to happen now. This country is in a crisis.”
Katie Porter, a U.S. representative from California who is a fifth-generation Iowan, made several campaign stops on Warren’s behalf around the state, including a house party with undecided voters in Cedar Rapids.
Porter won a historically Republican district in 2018, and was one of a record number of women who won House seats during the midterms. At the town hall in Mason City, she offered voters nail polish in the campaign’s liberty green color if they committed to caucusing for Warren.
Porter, who took Warren’s classes a law student at Harvard, said Warren has been on the side of working families for the majority of her career.
“Do you know what Elizabeth talked about that very first day of class? She talked about the exact same thing that she’s talking about every single day of this campaign,” Porter said.
The CNN/Des Moines Register Iowa poll had some good news for Warren: Her favorability ratings were high, and almost half of caucus goers said they could be persuaded to support a different candidate. But Warren’s national polling paints a different picture. She polls at 14.8%, trailing Biden at 29% and Sanders at 20%, according to Real Clear Politics’ average.
Throughout the summer, Warren’s momentum in Iowa seemed unstoppable. She drew larger crowds than any other candidate at events like the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding or the Polk County steak fry. In September, she overtook Biden for the lead in the Iowa poll.
But then her surge stalled, as Warren struggled to answer questions about how she would fund her Medicare For All plan. Under pressure from her rivals to be more specific, she spelled out a financing mechanism, and later came out with a proposal that would delay her health care overhaul until her third year in office.
By November, a poll showed Buttigieg in the lead in Iowa. Warren’s campaign made changes, opening her town halls to more voter questions. She also tempered her rhetoric on Medicare for All. By the end of the year, her polling had slipped and her fundraising had dipped. Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg all raised more money than her in the final quarter of 2019.
Warren is set to face off at the debate stage on Tuesday against five other candidates -- Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer -- giving her a chance to make her mark before the caucus.
“It’s a high stakes game here and she needs to turn some people’s minds around very quickly. For Iowa, this is going to be the last big opportunity,” said Patty Judge, a former lieutenant governor and secretary of agriculture of Iowa.
Warren needs to “get more aggressive, Judge added. “She is a person that will interrupt mid-sentence to tell you what she thinks. That’s just Elizabeth.”
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