DES MOINES, Iowa — Whatever questions Elizabeth Warren faced before becoming the first major Democratic candidate to step toward the 2020 presidential race, a nearly flawless and well-received trip to Iowa this weekend made it clear she intends to win and has a plan to do it.
Around 3,000 people turned out to see the Massachusetts senator at five events across the state over three days, a testament to both her political celebrity and the pent-up eagerness among Iowa Democrats to get the race started against President Donald Trump — even if their crucial first-in-the-nation caucuses are still more than a year away.
Invoking both her time selling Girl Scout cookies and the fight against the “corruption, plain and simple” of what she calls the rigged political system, Warren introduced herself as more personable than Bernie Sanders, her progressive frenemy, and more fiery and populist than other top potential candidates, like former Vice President Joe Biden.
Of course, she didn’t have to compete against any of them, since her early campaign launch ensured she’d have the state to herself.
But a pointed question from an audience member about the bungled roll out of her DNA test, along with doubts about whether she can beat Trump, offered reminders that nobody will have an easy path to the Democratic nomination in 2020.
“She’ll be recognized as a front-runner right now,” said Heather Matson, who ousted a Republican state lawmaker in November and participated in an event with Warren on Saturday. “But I think anyone who’s running for president and wants to spend time in Iowa knows that it’s going to be person-by-person contest.”
Talking Oklahoma, not Harvard
Warren used her 2018 Senate re-election campaign to hone her stump speech and build the biggest war chest of any potential 2020 hopeful at $12.5 million.
The practice in Massachusetts, which included some three dozen town halls, paid off this weekend in Iowa where she anchored campaign rallies while fighting a cold she said she picked up over the holidays from her grandchildren — the “little Petri dishes.”
People lined up before dawn in subfreezing temperatures to make sure they got in to see her in Sioux City on Saturday morning. Many were turned away at the door once the event reached capacity.
And large crowds followed Warren as she made her way east to Storm Lake and then Des Moines, where the line stretched around the block twice in the capital’s gentrifying East Village.
“There are 1,000 people here,” said Megan Suhr, the Marion County Democratic Party chair. “I stood in line for a Dave Grohl show two weeks ago and there were 1,000 people there.”