COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (CN) – After seeing her numbers surge a week after the first round of Democratic primary debates, Sen. Kamala Harris took advantage of her momentum on Independence Day by visiting Iowa, a critical stop for presidential hopefuls.
A day after speaking in West Des Moines, Harris treated several hundred people to a free barbecue dinner at River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs. With fireworks echoing in the distance, she promised middle-class tax cuts, pay raises for teachers and gun safety legislation within her first 100 days in office, should she be elected, while reminding voters that her experience as a prosecutor best qualifies her to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
“This election is about saying it is time to turn the page. We are going to have to prosecute the case against another four years of Donald Trump,” Harris told the crowd, before asking: “Who better to do that than a former prosecutor?”
Harris promised that she would show the kind of down-in-the-dirt toughness that one questioner, during a Q&A session, said Democrats have traditionally lacked.
“There is so much to fight for and so much at stake,” Harris said in response. “We can’t afford to be lovely, and then lose.”
The biggest cheer of the evening came when she brought up national security issues that have tested Trump. She cited the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the president’s reluctance to acknowledge interference by Russia in the 2016 election that placed him in office.
“Our democracy is being tested,” Harris said. “Like a natural disaster hitting a home, we’ve lost a few shingles, but we’re still standing.”
A poll released on July 3 by Focus on Rural America found the junior senator from California in second place, as the preference of 18% of registered voters in Iowa who are likely to participate in the first-in-the-nation caucus on Feb. 3, 2020. Sen. Elizabeth Warren led the poll with 20%, while presumed frontrunner Joe Biden had 17%. It was a virtual three-way tie, within the poll’s 4% margin of error. While both women doubled their support after the debates, Biden has seen his numbers steadily dwindle in quarterly Focus on Rural America polls since September 2018.
Thirty-four percent of those polled said they were “won over” by Harris during the debate, with only 7% saying the same of Biden.
The most notable exchange of last week’s debate came when Harris castigated Biden for his opposition to using school busing to integrate public schools in the 1970s, and pressing the former vice president for referring to his past of working with racist Southern politicians as an example of his bipartisanship.
Harris herself was bused to integrate Berkeley Public Schools in 1969. Her debate performance was on the mind of many in the crowd who spoke to Courthouse News.
Abdul Kallon, an immigrant who fled civil war in his native Sierra Leone in the 1990s and settled in Omaha, said that he was inspired to come see Harris by the debates.
“For me, it’s between her and Biden,” Kallon said. Immigration and the humanitarian crisis at the southern border are the most important issues for him.
“I know what this means, to run from civil war,” he said. “The least the U.S. can do is find out what these people are running from. To see a father and daughter hold each other to the very end on American soil, I cannot believe that.”
Elizabeth Wearin of Red Oak has narrowed down to her top nine or 10 candidates after having seen a dozen of them personally, and views Harris as an attractive candidate. “I like her attitude,” Wearin said.
Andrew Maddux of Council Bluffs named electability as the No. 1 qualification he is looking for, as “there isn’t much air between the candidates on the issues.”
Harris came off as a smart, passionate candidate who is focused not only on her signature issues, but also on victory. If there was one issue that had the crowd’s attention, it was voting Donald Trump out of office.
Harris made frequent use of a refrain that she is the best candidate to “prosecute” the case against reelecting Trump.