Warren Kicks Off 2020 Presidential Campaign In Iowa Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took her economic message to Iowa during her first campaign trip since announcing her exploratory committee for a presidential bid in December.
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Warren Kicks Off 2020 Presidential Campaign In Iowa

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Warren Kicks Off 2020 Presidential Campaign In Iowa

Warren Kicks Off 2020 Presidential Campaign In Iowa

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is kicking off her presidential run this weekend with a swing through the early voting state of Iowa. Warren is the first major candidate to visit the state this political season. But she's just one of some two dozen Democrats expected to run for president in 2020. NPR's Asma Khalid is in Iowa and has been talking to Democratic voters about what they're looking for in a candidate in these early stages of the 2020 primary campaign.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Elizabeth Warren has one central message for voters. The middle class is getting hollowed out. And this weekend, she took that message across Iowa with pit stops in a couple of pretty Republican counties.

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ELIZABETH WARREN: It's a dangerous time for our country. And I very much appreciate the effort that folks here in Iowa put into helping us determine the direction our country will take from here.

KHALID: When you ask Democrats in Iowa what's important to them, a lot of them mention the same few issues - health care, college affordability, the climate and the economy. In the huge field of potential presidential Democratic candidates, there's a degree of nuance on these issues. But voters do not necessarily see major policy differences - at least not yet. And so what it comes down to for a lot of folks, like Richard Malloy from Sioux City, is just somebody who can beat Donald Trump.

RICHARD MALLOY: Oh, right now it's very strong we get another Democrat back in, and we get Trump out. It's my main objective right there.

KHALID: You cannot overstate how frequently Democrats bring this up. They want someone electable. But that word, electability, means different things to different people. Some voters want a candidate who'll bring a more aspirational message. Others, like Geri Frederiksen, want a politician who will punch back against Donald Trump.

GERI FREDERIKSEN: Whoever it is has to be able to stand up to him. I don't think you have to stoop to his level. But you have to be firm.

KHALID: This is Iowa. And so Democrats here, like Jean McGinnis, feel their party needs a candidate who can talk to voters in red states. McGinnis was in line to get her picture taken with Warren.

JEAN MCGINNIS: I'm looking for somebody with broad appeal so that we can pull in some of the independents and the Republicans.

KHALID: And for McGinnis, Warren could be that person. But another voter in the crowd, Leif Erickson, is not so sure she is.

LEIF ERICKSON: She stood up to Trump. And I don't know. Maybe it backfired on her a little bit.

KHALID: The thing is, even though Iowans make their choice first, they're not necessarily representative of what Democrats across the country want. Some Democrats in other states say the party ought to forget about winning Trump voters back and, instead, focus on boosting turnout among minorities. But here in Iowa, the consensus is the party needs someone who can go into rural neighborhoods and try to win them over. Warren's economic message resonates with voters at her rallies. And some say they're impressed with how she's taken on the banking industry. But they also say they've got a year to make up their minds. They want to see more candidates.

MARILYNN LEGGIO: I want somebody to get Trump out of there big time.

KHALID: That's Marilynn Leggio. She brought her teenage granddaughter with her to a Warren rally. She says she has no doubt the Massachusetts senator would do a good job. But she's not sure, after what happened with Hillary Clinton, whether a woman can win.

LEGGIO: I think there's a lot of men out there that would never vote for a woman. I hate to say that. But I think that, especially a woman that's strong, you know, very opinionated - I think a lot of men think she's pushy.

KHALID: But even if voters, including Leggio, cannot agree on exactly what this idea of electability means, they point to a common trait - authenticity, someone who just feels real, whether or not that alienates people. Asma Khalid, NPR News, Des Moines.

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