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Warren On The Campaign Trail

She's Running: Elizabeth Warren Turns In Strong Performance In Iowa

Elizabeth Warren in Sioux City
Elizabeth Warren meets the press after a speech in Sioux City, Iowa on Jan. 5, 2019.
Adam Reilly/WGBH News
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Warren On The Campaign Trail

On WGBH News' Morning Edition, host Joe Mathieu discussed Sen. Elizabeth Warren's stronger-than-expected performance on the campaign trail in Iowa with senior editor Peter Kadzis and reporter Adam Reilly. The senior senator from Massachusetts will be in New Hampshire this weekend speaking to voters in the state where the nation's first presidential primary is held. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: It's Friday and time to talk local politics with Kadzis and Reilly. Senior editor and columnist Peter Kadzis and political reporter Adam Reilly are here with us. They are cohosts of our political podcast, The Scrum, which you can find at WGBHNews.org. Following Adam's trip to Iowa last week, and every Friday, we sit down for our own scrum here. Morning guys. Welcome back. The 2020 presidential election is nearly two years away, but campaign season is well underway — certainly for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the first prominent Democrat to jump into the limelight here, announcing, as we told you, an exploratory committee. She just got back from Iowa, where Adam actually spoke with her following one of her speeches.

Clip of Elizabeth Warren campaigning in Iowa: "It's about all the people who volunteer, who raise their voices and are saying that they want an America that reflects their best values."

Mathieu: Speaking of raising voices, I hope she has one this weekend in New Hampshire, where yes indeed, this is now underway...the other major early campaign stop for presidential hopefuls. Adam, how are these two trips different? Are they are speaking to different audiences, different messages?

Adam Reilly: I don't see them as fundamentally different. I think in both cases, as you mentioned, she's heading to a key early voting state, getting herself in the mix before other big name Democrats do. And the message that I heard her deliver in Iowa was not finely tuned to local issues. I don't mean that as a negative. I think you can get in trouble when it's clear that you're pandering: 'Good morning Sioux City. Let's hear it for ethanol!' or something like that. She was not taking that approach when she was in Iowa. She was focused on her message that Washington works well for an elite few and poorly for everybody else. And I think it's going to be the same thing in New Hampshire.

Mathieu: Well Peter Kadzis, here we are. You and I have talked about this for the better part of a year, and we said, 'Boy, I don't think it's going to happen, I'm not sure it's going to happen.' Well she's running, it looks like, not formally but we can all see what's happening. And you've been on the phone talking to a lot of insiders about this. Is she making the right move?

Peter Kadzis: Well, in Iowa the party insiders tell me that she's off to a stronger start than they expected. You know, look, while Beto O'Rouke is having his teeth cleaned, she's talking about the working wage for working people. But it's important we not get ahead of ourselves. In New Hampshire, a number of party activists said look, until Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders make the decision as to whether they'll run, it's very difficult to handicap the race. Now these people weren't necessarily plumping for either of those candidates. It's just that those decisions need to be made.

Reilly: And by the way that jibes with something that I heard in Iowa. It points to another similarity between these two states: The voters in both places really pride themselves on this important outside civic role that they have, and they would tell me, 'You know I absolutely loved her. But it's incredibly early, and I'm going to see as many candidates I possibly can before committing to one of them.'

Kadzis: Yeah, and Joe, if I can make one observation, I think if the press in general is making a mistake here, it's trying to impose their views of what's important on the electorate. The electorate is going to define this selection for themselves, and I think Adam found that in Iowa.

Mathieu: Is this a classic primary race to the left, or knowing which one of these people will run against in Donald Trump? Does that change the conversation, Adam?

Reilly: I think it already has changed the conversation. Warren is clearly already working on her strategy for showing that she's capable of appealing to moderate and even conservative voters. In Iowa, she talked again and again about how she has three brothers, one of whom is a Democrat. She talked about how Democrats and Republicans agree on big issues, when it comes to things like health care and education, even though you might not think it. And she talked about her work with Chuck Grassley on this hearing aid legislation. At the same time, [she's] sticking with this left leaning economic populist message, sure — but she's already she's already looking to the center and right as she also caters to the left.

Mathieu: Peter Kadzis, you mentioned Beto O'Rourke going to the dentist on Instagram. That's what everybody is looking at this morning. Elizabeth Warren was on Instagram drinking a Michelob Ultra, I believe, a few nights ago as well. Is that the kind of messaging that plays in New Hampshire, drinking a beer online? Or is that fake?

Kadzis: That's frosting on the cake. It doesn't matter one way or the other. Here's what's gonna matter: My conversations with party insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire show that they think voters are going to be approaching this not ideologically but practically. They will make a decision based on who can beat Trump.

Mathieu: That's WGBH News senior editor and columnist Peter Kadzis and political reporter Adam Reilly. They're doing great work in the field, and you can find The Scrum, their podcast, online at WGBH News.

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