Sen. Elizabeth Warren is in Iowa today and throughout the weekend, meeting with voters there. Warren announced she had formed an exploratory committee to run for the White House, and Iowa holds the nation’s first presidential caucuses. WGBH Radio’s Adam Reilly is in Iowa with Warren. He spoke with All Things Considered host Barbara Howard about the trip. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Barbara Howard: So you're in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where Warren is scheduled to speak to this evening. So tell us, where is Council Bluffs, and why is she starting her trip there?
Adam Reilly: Council Bluffs is in the far western part of Iowa. It's right on the border with Nebraska. You can actually see Omaha from Council Bluffs. It's a part of Iowa that is known for being extremely conservative, but where Democrats also showed some increased strength in the recent midterms. Warren is staying in the west on Saturday morning, after tonight's event, before she heads back east.
As for why she's planned her trip this way, Democrats have been kicking themselves for not doing more to court rural voters ever since Donald Trump won the presidency. And I think that starting out here and staying in western Iowa for a little bit is a way for Warren to show that she has learned that lesson and knows the party needs to do things differently to win in 2020.
Howard: So what has been the buzz in advance of her arrival?
Reilly: Based on the conversations that I've had, Iowa Democrats and even other Democrats coming over the border from Nebraska are very excited to see her. She hasn't visited Iowa in person in, I think, close to five years.
There does seem to be, at least among prominent Democrats, or elite Democrats, influential Democrats in Iowa, some lingering concern about how Warren handled that DNA test back in October. Remember, she rolled out the results, and it seemed like she thought that that was going to put it to rest once and for all, questions about her ancestry and her claims to Native American ancestry. It didn't quite work out that way. I spoke with a man named Scott Putney earlier today. He's a labor organizer and a Democratic activist. He said that he loves Warren's message. He sees her as resembling Bernie Sanders, who he backed last time around, but that her handling of the DNA issue has not gone over well with people that he knows.
Howard: A poll of possible presidential candidates last month found Elizabeth Warren trailing three other Democrats among Iowa voters. She came in fourth behind Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders, none of whom have formed a presidential exploratory committee as Warren has done. Is she facing an uphill battle?
Reilly: I think it's a little bit too early to say, because the caucuses are still more than a year away. It's also worth pointing out that Warren just made headlines in Iowa, but also nationally, by hiring four new operatives who are really highly regarded in the world of Iowa politics. One of them was Bernie Sanders' Iowa caucuses director in 2016. And I don't think those people would be signing on if they thought that Warren was a long shot.
Howard: We're speaking with WGBH Radio's Adam Reilly, who is with Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Iowa. What comes next after today?
Reilly: She'll head north to Sioux City tomorrow. That's another somewhat liberal enclave in a generally conservative part of the state. And then she'll begin to make her way back east, a more reliably liberal territory. She'll wrap things up with a couple of events in and around Des Moines, one on Saturday night and one on Sunday midday.
Howard: OK. Well thanks for joining us, Adam.
Reilly: Thanks a lot, Barbara.
Howard: That’s WGBH Radio’s Adam Reilly, joining us from Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he is following Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren is in Iowa, the site of the first in the nation caucuses, days after announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to run for president. You can keep track of Adam’s reporting from Iowa on Twitter and on wgbhnews.org. This is WGBH’s All Things Considered.