It was Sunday morning in Davenport when Elizabeth Warren was asked about her chances at being elected in a general election compared to some of the field’s more moderate candidates.
“What would you say to us?” A woman asked, after saying she was between caucusing for Warren and someone like Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden.
Warren got a similar question twice more during the weekend. Ideological differences set her apart from the comparatively moderate campaigns of Buttigieg or Biden, Iowan event attendees said, but a concern over electability may play mightily into the decisions of those undecided voters.
And Warren, in a much more pointed way than before in her campaign, highlighted on the trail the most glaring difference between her and the other frontrunners — her gender.
“Can we just address it right here? Women win,” she said in Davenport. “The world changed when Donald Trump got elected … The world changed when he was inaugurated in 2017 and the next day, the biggest protest march in the history of the world occurred. Women candidates have been outperforming men candidates since Donald Trump was elected.”
When she was again asked “why her?” at an event in Cedar Rapids, she again mentioned the power of female candidates.
“Women win office and women show out to make those elections winning,” she said. “I say all that, just to level the playing field a little bit. Why? Because I just want to be clear. Women win.”
In a media gaggle after her Cedar Rapids event, Warren was questioned about the new emphasis.
“It’s been part of it. People ask the question, it’s important to get it out there,” she said. “This can’t be a hidden question. They ask about it. I’m glad to talk about it.”
With eight days until caucus night, Warren spent this weekend roving around the eastern side of the state in a new campaign bus that had “Courage over Cynicism” and “Hope over Fear” printed on the side, and rolled out a few tweaks to her usual stump speech that displayed renewed vigor to fight.
“Understand — this moment in history will not come our way again,” Warren said. “This moment in history will determine the direction this nation takes for generations to come. This moment in history is our time to choose courage over fear. This moment in history is our time to dream big and fight hard.”
But how does Warren convince white men over 50 that she’s the candidate? A man asked that in Cedar Rapids, after saying his friends considered her an anti-capitalist who wants to tax Wall Street.
“We built a marketplace economy,” she said. “There are certain areas that markets just don’t work in. They shouldn’t work in health care, they don’t work in education … Without regulation, markets just become a place to exploit the non-rich and powerful. We need a president who has the courage to stand up to these big corporations to enforce our antitrust laws.”
Defeating Trump Weighs On Iowans
Electability remained a concern for many of the Iowans at Warren’s events in the closing weeks of campaigning.
Davenport resident Holly Soboroff, 40, said she doesn’t know who she’s caucusing for yet and is planning on even going into the night undecided. Removing Trump from office is one of her biggest concerns, she said at the Davenport event.
“It’s like there are a lot of different candidates and I think people are worried,” Soboroff said. “It’s electability versus what you want.”
At a Warren town hall in Muscatine, Scott Comstock, 46, said he’s between caucusing for Warren and Buttigieg. He’s taking the next week to consider the candidates and expects to make his decision shortly before Feb. 3.
“I think we’re all still trying to hold onto that optimism that some change could take place,” Comstock said at her Muscatine event. “Electability is in the back of your mind… You want to assume that change can be made, that difference can happen, but at the same time, everything that happens on the news, you worry that it’s not going to be enough.”
In other parts of Warren’s electability answer this weekend, she brought up her winning campaign against Scott Brown.
“I went back to Massachusetts [after establishing the CFPB] and took on a popular incumbent Republican senator and beat him,” Warren said. “In fact, I’m the only person in this race who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years.”
Most of all, though, Warren implicitly urged Iowans to not get bogged down in their fear of what losing to Trump would mean, and instead trust their gut in fighting back.
“A lot of people are afraid. They’re afraid for their families and their neighbors. They’re afraid for children who are locked up in detentions down at our border,” Warren closed her Cedar Rapids speech with. “They are afraid for our nation. They are afraid for our planet. The danger is real. Our democracy hangs in the balance. So, you’ve got a decision to make, Iowa … Are we going to give into fear, or are we going to be timid? Or are we are we going to fight back?”
Still Vying For Progressive Voters
Warren’s path to a win would be made easier had much of the core progressive base of voters not solidified so much behind Sanders.
At a Sanders campaign event Saturday in Cedar Falls, two students told a Sanders organizer that they were between Warren and Sanders. The girls were told by the organizer, that although Warren and Sanders are similar candidates, to look at Sanders’ record when it comes to fighting corruption.
“He said Bernie was the only candidate who has tried to stop the corruption and not care if people hate him,” Bre Eigenheer, 20, said. “I truly do base it on action, so being told what Bernie has done, I’m kind of like, yeah, I like that. Which is pushing me toward Bernie.”
Terry McAtee, 57, from Davenport, is deciding between caucusing for Warren or Sanders. His son is a Sanders supporter while his mother is caucusing for Warren, and McAtee likes both candidates’ policies.
“[My family members are] both convincing, and they both feel very strongly about their candidates. And I would be fine with either one, it’s just choosing between the two,” McAtee said. “I think they would both be very electable against Trump. As far as who would be better? I’m not sure. But [electability is] definitely a factor.”
But as caucus night approaches, Warren solidified her stump’s finish, with a renewed focus on her campaign’s purpose: fighting.
“Fighting back is an act of patriotism. We fought back against a king to build this nation. We fought back against slavery to preserve this union. We fought back against a great depression to rebuild this economy, and we fought back against fascism to protect our democracy,” Warren said at the end of her weekend in Cedar Rapids. “We are at our best when we meet problems head-on and when we fight back.”
by Isabella Murray