Dems Shift 2020 Strategies 09/20 06:28

Dems Shift 2020 Strategies             09/20 06:28

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Kamala Harris will "exponentially" increase the 
time she's spending in Iowa. Bernie Sanders is shaking up his operations there 
and in New Hampshire. And Beto O'Rourke is going broader, turning up at such 
places as a San Quentin prison and an Arkansas gun show.

   With just over four months until the Iowa caucuses usher in the battle for 
the Democratic nomination, candidates are shifting their approaches to the 
state. Some are betting the changes will pay off closer to the caucuses. Others 
are lowering expectations by looking beyond Iowa.

   All are confronting the reality that the heady early days of their campaigns 
will soon collide with actual voting that could quickly force them out of the 
race.

   "This is the place where you would see larger-scale course corrections," 
said Democratic strategist Karen Finney. "Over the summer, there's tinkering 
here or there, but with voting starting in four months, you have to be thinking 
about where you want to be by that point."

   Harris was the latest candidate to pivot after a challenging summer in which 
she's struggled to catch up to early front-runner Joe Biden or capture the same 
energy as Elizabeth Warren. Juan Rodriguez, Harris' campaign manager, told 
reporters Thursday that the California senator is going big in Iowa, dedicating 
60 paid staffers to the state.

   "We want to make sure we have a strong, top-three finish," Rodriguez said, 
arguing that the Feb. 3 caucuses could "slingshot" Harris into the contests 
that quickly follow in New Hampshire, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday 
states, including California.

   As Harris and virtually every other Democratic contender descend on Iowa 
this weekend for the annual steak fry fundraiser, they're well aware of what's 
on the line. Iowa has repeatedly proved decisive in winnowing the presidential 
field --- or providing a path to victory.

   John Kerry, once the 2004 campaign's early front-runner, was lagging behind 
upstart Howard Dean in the fall of 2003, only to shake up his campaign in 
October, reinvest heavily in Iowa and race to victory in the closing weeks. 
Likewise, Barack Obama's late 2007 surge past better-known names including 
Hillary Clinton capped a once-unlikely win in Iowa that set him on the road to 
the nomination and presidency.

   Joe Trippi, who ran Dean's campaign, said no one should be counted out 
despite polls that show a largely static top tier of candidates including 
Biden, Sanders and Warren.

   "Iowa moves frickin' fast and hard at the end, and it's not necessarily who 
you'd expect that comes out on top," he said. "You can go the whole way 
thinking Howard Dean has it locked up, and you find out the hard way that's not 
how it works."

   With that in mind, many candidates are building sizable operations in Iowa. 
Biden will soon have 110 staffers in the state, including more than 80 in the 
field. Sanders has 72 staffers on the ground, and Warren has more than 65 
staffers in the state.

   Harris' decision to add roughly 60 staffers in Iowa and spend more time on 
the ground there is a significant shift from the campaign she ran this summer. 
Until she arrived on Thursday, she was absent from Iowa for more than a month. 
Her campaign says she'll be there every week starting in October.

   Speaking to reporters after a campaign stop in Coralville, Harris said she'd 
be spending as much time in Iowa as possible in the coming months and joked 
that she "got very little sleep last night trying to figure out where my 
sweaters and my boots are." But she called the decision to refocus her time on 
Iowa a "tradeoff" that was "frustrating" for her to make.

   "The realities of the campaign, I cannot only be in Iowa because South 
Carolina is also a state that is very important, that I care about," Harris 
said.

   Matt Paul, who ran Clinton's Iowa campaign in 2016, said Harris' team caught 
the issue early enough.

   "Give her credit," he said. "She had a problem here, she hadn't been here in 
a while, she listened, she corrected it, and she's coming here."

   But Harris' vulnerabilities aren't limited to Iowa. With much of her summer 
spent on fundraising, she had a similarly light footprint in other early voting 
states.

   She campaigned in New Hampshire once in the last two months. She also hasn't 
been in South Carolina, where she's counting on a strong showing among black 
voters, in two months but plans to double her organizing staff.

   Other candidates are also planning a fall surge in Iowa. Pete Buttigieg, the 
mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has rapidly expanded his paid staffers in the 
state, bringing his total to 100, one of the field's most expansive Iowa 
footprints.

   His campaign is convening more than two dozen donors in Iowa this weekend to 
discuss strategy, according to an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity 
to discuss the plans.

   Buttigieg plans to crisscross the state by bus this weekend, with visits to 
smaller cities in central and northern Iowa. He's inviting the media to join 
him on the bus to engage more casually than he has in the past.

   Sanders, meanwhile, recently severed ties with his Iowa political director, 
one of a series of staff shake-ups in key early voting states. The campaign 
also replaced Sanders' New Hampshire state director.

   Amy Klobuchar, who has focused heavily on Iowa since joining the race, is 
zeroing in this week on a "blue wall" tour of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and 
Pennsylvania, states that supported Democrats for decades before flipping to 
President Donald Trump in 2016.

   The Minnesota senator is stressing the similarities between her home state 
and the blue wall states, and her ability to win over voters in areas that 
backed Trump --- an argument, she says, for why she would be the best 
Democratic nominee.

   O'Rourke is also taking a wider view of the map. Since suspending his 
campaign for nearly two weeks to remain in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, 
after a mass shooting there that killed 22 people, he's vowed to take the quest 
to deny Trump a second term directly to the president.

   He's still visiting early voting states but is traveling to unusual places 
like the Mississippi towns where recent immigration raids led to nearly 700 
people arrested and an Arkansas gun show.

   The idea is to distinguish O'Rourke in a crowded field. But Trippi said the 
strategy could prove fatal.

   "It's Iowa or nothing," he said. "Touring every state but the early states 
is a big mistake."


(KR)

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