MANCHESTER, Iowa -- As dark as American politics have turned, talking to regular, everyday voters is almost always reassuring.
On a recent four-day swing through Iowa, away from the paid political gladiators and social media zealots, almost all of the three-dozen voters I spoke with about the Democratic presidential race had thoughtful, measured views. People managed to explain why they liked one candidate over another, without tearing down their less favored option.
Many said they respect former Vice President Joe Biden, even if they prefer Pete Buttigieg. Others like the liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the more moderate Buttigieg, despite the tribal battles online. None seemed worried about their Twitter mentions.
Along the way, I saw signs of a potential dark-horse candidate in Iowa, of Sen. Bernie Sanders mounting a comeback, and got a feel for how Iowa's vast geography shapes presidential campaigns.
Voters brought up Amy Klobuchar much more than expected.
The senator from neighboring Minnesota has invested big in Iowa, and she leaned into her Midwestern roots at a forum sponsored by the Teamsters. Klobuchar joked about her home state Minnesota Vikings, the rival Green Bay Packers, and Big Ten football.
The senator, 59, would seem to split the difference in age and experience between others competing for the moderate mantle: the 77-year-old Biden and 37-year-old Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Polling suggests rising interest: Klobuchar has consistently placed fifth in major Iowa polls since mid-November, a kind of "best of the rest" status after the Big Four (Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren). She hit 10% support in an Emerson College survey released this week, her best showing yet. She has set herself up as a potential dark horse in the state.
Klobuchar leaned into the electability argument, stressing that she has won every election she has run in a closely balanced state, securing majorities in even deep red congressional districts.
"The most important thing is going to be to win," Klobuchar told the Teamsters. "I have won every race, every place, every time."