WEST DES MOINES, Iowa—Demographically and economically, Iowa isn’t actually that representative of the country as a whole. But even as the demographics and economics make it less like the rest of America, Iowa’s absurdly outsize role in picking the leader of the free world remains.
Enter two candidates, in the space of 48 hours, who both see the state as crucial: two women, two senators, two former local prosecutors, two people who had breakout moments during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings last fall, two presidential hopefuls on their second trips to Iowa since launching their campaigns.
Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris need the same thing, but they need it for opposite reasons.
Literally dozens more Democrats are in or circling the race. But the dynamics between these two, both doing well in early polls, contrast familiar Midwest pragmatism with diverse Left Coast progressivism. And most important for the ultra-energized voters here: Who is best to beat Donald Trump?
For Klobuchar, Iowa is her neighbor to the south—“We can see it from our porch in Minnesota” is the line she uses—conveniently located in geography and order on the primary calendar. A win in the Iowa caucuses could validate her pitch that the 2020 election is calling out for someone who can link the years her grandfather spent working in a mine to the “grit” to stand in a snowstorm for her own campaign announcement two weeks ago, and connect a purported hard-nosed pragmatism to years of big wins in her home state. For Harris, the state is the essential test of whether the parts of the country far from the square in Oakland where 22,000 stood in the streets for her announcement rally last month are really ready for a half-Jamaican, half-Indian woman from California who speaks bluntly about what’s gone wrong with America.