Kamala Harris Is Eyeing Iowa to Reverse Her Summer Slump—but Can That Save Her Campaign?

It may take more than a change of venue to pull the California senator out of fourth place and into contention

After squandering the bump she enjoyed after a hugely successful appearance at the first Democratic Primary debate in June, Senator Kamala Harris is looking to reverse her summer slump by recalibrated her campaign’s focus on Iowa.

“I’m fucking moving to Iowa,” she told fellow Democratic senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii last week. And she means it.

Trailing a distant, single-digit fourth place in recent polls behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, Harris has had to adjust her “SEC primary meets West Coast Offense” strategy. That plan had focused largely on winning primaries in South Carolina, Virginia, and California, but now the Harris campaign is determined to spend more time and money on earlier contests, especially the Iowa Caucus, the Primary’s first official tally, to keep her campaign viable among voters in later elections.

“We’ve got to put Iowa first,” Harris’s communications director Lily Adams said on a press call. “Expect to see Kamala in the state every week.”

The Harris campaign is about to open ten new offices in Iowa and to nearly double the number of paid staffers there, bringing on 60 more people. Harris’s campaign estimates she’ll spend a total of roughly two weeks in the state next month.

Still, Harris has more to fix than just her geographic strategy. As The New Republic points out, it could be said that her message has been mixed and hard to follow.

After winning points by attacking Biden for his anti-busing policies in the 1970s, Harris admitted that she would not push for that tactic to desegregate schools today. She also seemed to back Sanders’s idea for doing away with private health insurance at the same debate, but almost immediately backed away from that stance as well.

In a contest where Sanders and Warren have set themselves up as iconoclasts for wide-sweeping change, and Biden is positioned as the moderate liberal you can trust not to tip the boat, Harris’s critics say her bid to be the unifier between the two sides leaves her stuck a political DMZ where much of what she says just doesn’t jibe with the other things she says.

“Unity is the result of making a persuasive case to voters about how you would alter their lives,” The New Republic argues. “Harris too often treats it as a goal we can reach by willing it into existence. There is a palpable sense that she believes taking a stand would damage her case as a uniter. (The recent rise of Elizabeth Warren, in particular, seems to disprove this.)”

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