Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris cross paths in northern Iowa, where voters say bumping into 2020 candidates is 'normal'

Iowa voters say they expect easy access to 2020 candidates — and that any of them would be better than Donald Trump

Clark Mindock
Clear Lake, Iowa
Saturday 10 August 2019 19:05
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Just as Elizabeth Warren finished up her short speech at the Iowa Wing Ding dinner — “2020 is our chance, we can make this government work for all of America”, she said — a key rival of her’s was leaning down, just a stone’s throw away, and talking to a 10-year-old girl.

Swarmed by reporters on the side of the venue in Clear Lake, Iowa, a town with just under 8,000 residents, Kamala Harris took a moment to hear from Eva Shannon, a little girl wearing a bright red t-shirt, who just wanted to meet an idol.

“She asked me how old I was, and if I’m old enough to vote,” Eva, who carried around a small notepad with a pen, and had spoken to so many candidates on Friday night that she had lost count, said later. “Then she told me to make sure everyone in my family votes.”

It was a sight that in any other context in any other part of the country would have seemed bizarre, but in northern Iowa, two US senators who are leading presidential candidates passing in a dimly-lit concert hall like ships in the night is hardly unusual: Just moments after Ms Warren stepped off the stage, Joe Biden stood up to the same podium. Before those three, some 18 other candidates had also spoken to the crowd.

In fact, it’s expected in the organised chaos that comes alongside the Wing Ding dinner — an annual fundraiser — where voters said that meeting the people who may one day become president, one-on-one, is something of a normal occurrence.

“I think this is fairly typical,” said Kevin Li, 18, a first time voters who lives in Johnston, Iowa. “It becomes normal to have a bunch of candidates around.”

Mr Li had just taken a selfie with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who had himself just given a speech, before hanging out in the lobby with a member of his staff. A few voters approached, but, mostly, the leader of America’s biggest city was left to his own devices.

Mr Li continued, noting that many of the candidates actually ask local Democratic groups to host them as they try to build their name recognition: “It gets to the point where, rather than being exciting, it becomes a chore.”

During the speeches, the 21 Democrats in the room struck a similar chord, hoping to prove to those voters that they deserve their vote. They trashed Donald Trump, calling him a danger to the United States who had sold the American people on false promises to shake up the status quo in favour of ordinary people.

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But, they largely refrained from attacking one another. If there was any animosity from the most recent round of debates in Detroit, where CNN moderators repeatedly goaded the candidates to attack one another, they kept it out of Clear Lake.

Outside of the event space, though, the competition was palpable. Supporters for Mr Biden lined up on one side, and chanted across the street at supporters for Julian Castro and Cory Booker supporters. Nearby, Ms Warren’s supporters chanted and waved their signs, just across the street from the acolytes for Ms Harris.

“It’s a toss up between Kamala and Booker,” Bob Grant, 65, of Mason City, said later. “I like their ideas, and she is, she has so much strength.

But, Mr Grant — like the majority of voters at the Wing Ding dinner — said he would be fine with any of the candidates who spoke Friday, so long as they can beat Mr Trump.

“I want someone who can build America back,” he said.

John Bailey, 79, who said he lives two blocks away from the venue, said he likes Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. But, at the end of the day, again, he’s in it to make sure Mr Trump is denied a second term.

“Anybody that’s running would make a better president than stupid.”

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