DAVENPORT, Iowa — Kamala Harris is on the move.
During the course of a five-day sprint across Iowa that included 17 stops across 11 counties, the Democratic presidential candidate ordered tacos from a tacqueria in Storm Lake, sampled a pork chop at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, called bingo at a senior center in Muscatine and toured the Coyote Run farm in Lacona.
The Associated Press interviewed Harris on her bus, which blared her name in bold, vibrant colors as she traveled through a state that she repeatedly said has “made me a better candidate.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What have you learned from the people you have met on this trip so far?
A: I’ve heard from everyone from farmers to teachers, to people who have been laid off, to seniors who are worried about their Medicare coverage and their prescription drug costs, to students really worried about student loan debt. A lot of people worried about climate change, and there’s an intersection between some of those. What I’ve enjoyed about it is, you know, given the travel schedules we all have, to be in for me, with all of the states that we have to cover. Being in one state for five to six straight days, doing it on the bus in a way that we’re not just going to the places where there are airports and kind of ... but instead can get out to places where there are no airports but where people live. How many people came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for coming,’ because they’re not necessarily used to seeing with any frequency at all presidential candidates. I’ve been saying from the beginning, and I’m still in that phase, that it’s really important for me to listen as much as I’m talking.
Q: Why was it so important to be in Iowa for so long?
A: There are some practical reasons, to be sure. The Senate’s not in session so I could actually do five straight days. Five straight days, it’s a luxury of sorts. To be able to do that, to do it and to stay, and, really, we’ve been all over the state. It’s almost like being embedded when you as a journalist do that, right? Which is being able to really just dive in and not to have split attention to really just be here. Like this, looking out the window and seeing the flooding and seeing ... one of the things I am very focused on in Iowa is the water issue, both in terms of issues of rain and flooding but also clean water is just a big issue in the state. I was just in Michigan. It’s a big issue there. When you talk to a mother in Flint or in Detroit, and you talk to a mother here, they’re having the same conversation, which is that there is poison in the water that their babies are drinking. That’s real. And they’re saying, What is my government doing about it? And they’re saying, “I don’t have any other source of water, and sometimes I have to drink that water that I know has chemicals in it that my child shouldn’t be drinking.” That’s real. For me, that’s the thing about these kinds of trips, which is very affirming. It’s about proving my hypothesis, if you will, which is that we have more in common than what separates us.
Q: How do you think about balancing telling people why you want to be their president and responding to things that President Donald Trump says?
A: I feel the need to speak about what he says when it is so clearly destructive, hateful or not reflective of the words of a leader, which is often. But I just think that this is a moment that is challenging leaders to have the courage to speak and say that is not effective of a leader, much less the leader of our nation and the so-called free world. People gotta speak up. There’s a speech that I give about hate, and it was actually part of my stump for a long time. Which is about the importance of speaking truth even when it makes people uncomfortable and speaking the truth about racism, anti-Semitism on and on. ... We must agree that whoever is the subject of that and is being attacked should never be made to fight alone. That’s what is going on in my head when I hear certain statements that he makes. It’s about all of us collectively saying we’re not going to stand by and witness an attempt to beat people down without standing up, collectively, and saying we’re all in this together.