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Kamala Harris seeks to revive her faltering poll numbers on Iowa bus tour

Tyler Pager, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa -- Known as a steely California prosecutor, Kamala Harris showed her softer side as she crisscrossed Iowa over the past week -- visiting a sustainable farm in Timberland boots and raving about the garlic and heirloom tomatoes and calling out Bingo numbers for senior citizens.

On a five-day, 17-stop bus tour, she sought to claim the middle ground in the sprawling Democratic primary and regain the momentum that briefly propelled her campaign into the top tier earlier this summer.

Harris rode on a bus plastered with her name and campaign logo on the outside for a trip that signaled she's now focused on Iowa, site of the first presidential contest on Feb. 3, where Joe Biden still holds a commanding lead.

Harris, who became known for her finger-jabbing questioning of Supreme Court nominees from her perch on the Judiciary Committee, ate a pork chop on a stick at the Iowa State Fair. She prayed with parishioners at Corinthian Baptist Church in Des Moines.

And she seemed to appreciate the competitive spirit of the Bingo players in Muscatine.

"Just like you intend to win Bingo, I intend to win this election," Harris told an elderly woman after the first round.


But Harris has serious ground to make up to Iowa. Over the past five days, she tried to home in on what separates her from her biggest rivals: Biden and Elizabeth Warren. The latest statewide poll showed her in third place in Iowa with 11%, behind Biden with 28% and Warren with 19%.

Biden and Warren represent the two opposing ideological flanks of the party. So Harris has tried to position herself between the two.

"I mean, you know, where would you put a progressive prosecutor in that spectrum?" Harris told Bloomberg News on Sunday. "It's literally, it's not the way that I think about things. I approached priorities around what do we need to do to fix something. What do we need to do to get something done? What do we need to do to be relevant in the lives of people? That's my motivation. It's not, do I need to satisfy some orthodoxy about a certain ideological position?"

Harris centered the bus tour theme on her pragmatic approach to policy, framing the five-day swing around her "3AM Agenda," what she says are issues that wake people up before dawn. Iowans who had been waiting to see her in person said her pragmatism, even as she showed more of her personality, was a draw.


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