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Eric Garcetti, presidential long shot, journeys to Iowa, the land of dreams

Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa grows corn, raises hogs and nurtures presidential dreams.

The state launched two exceeding long shots, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, to the White House, giving each a look and listen when sophisticates elsewhere treated their campaigns as the stuff of cockeyed fantasy.

So when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti set out Friday to introduce himself to Iowa with a two-day visit, the all-but-announced Democratic candidate for president was traveling a well-trod path.

He visited with firefighters and union carpenters. He met with Latino and Asian American activists, and attended a gay rights gala. He took a walk through Des Moines' hipster East Village neighborhood and picked up Iowa-themed gear at an edgy boutique.

What he did not do was make formal his apparent candidacy.

Under what circumstances would he run for president, an Iowa reporter asked Garcetti as he toured the carpenters training center in Altoona. He smiled and rocked back on his heels, as if buffeted by an unexpected wave.

"I'm listening this year," he said, promising a final decision in 2019 as a small audience of millwrights looked on from the shop floor. Then, moments later, he asked for a do-over.

"I'm not here looking for a new job for me," Garcetti said. "I'm looking for more new jobs for Americans."

With visions of a blue wave in November's midterm elections and a sitting-duck incumbent in 2020, there is no shortage of Democratic hopefuls, or talked-about White House prospects.

Numbering more than two dozen, they can be roughly sorted between brand-name contestants in their 60s and 70s -- former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- and a very large field of young and restless newcomers.

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