Elizabeth Warren confronts the problem by dragging her down

MASON CITY, Iowa – Kristen Marttila’s alarm rang at 6 am on Saturday and was soon filling two thermoses, one with hot water and one with soup, to stick to the day ahead: a two-hour trip to Mason City to campaign for Senator Elizabeth Warren in the cold ice cream.

As it happened, Mrs. Warren was celebrating an event at the town hall here, and Mrs. Marttila won a raffle that allowed her to ask the last question of the day. He began by describing what he had learned through six miles of knocking on the door.

“Today I talked to a lot of people who really like you,” he said. You may even like them more. But they really are afraid to vote for who they like best. Because they worry that not enough people feel the same. “

Then he posed perhaps the most urgent question Mrs. Warren faces in 2020.

“What do we do,” he asked, “to give people the courage to vote for who they like best?”

Eligibility is an amorphous concept that can be a disadvantage for those who do not fit the mold of all but a former president: white men.

“People who want a strong male leader who acts as a soccer coach are probably never going to vote for her,” said Nancy Gaub, 65, of Fairfield, Iowa, who attended a Warren event in December.

On Tuesday, Warren arrived at the Des Moines debate armed with a new response for his critics. “Look at the men in this scenario,” he said. “Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people in this scenario who have won all the elections they have been in are women. ”Then he noticed that he had defeated a Republican in the last three decades.

However, her tone as a unifier may have suffered in the moments after the debate when the cameras captured her apparently refusing to shake the extended hand of Mr. Sanders. Then, on Wednesday, the audio of that encounter came to light, with Mrs. Warren and Mr. Sanders exchanging accusations that each of them had called himself a liar.

Friends and allies, Sanders and Warren have long argued in recent days if he told her at a private meeting in late 2018 that he did not believe that a woman could be elected president. She said he made the comment; He has denied it.

Presenting yourself as a “unit candidate” has also left Ms. Warren trapped between two politicians in Mr. Sanders (left) and Mr. Biden (right) with lasting bases of support.

And although Mrs. Warren is known for her plans, her decision in November to launch her own “Medicare for all” proposal has particularly damaged her position with the moderates who oppose the cost of the $ 20.5 billion plan and resist The idea that I could cause them. lose your private insurance, according to interviews with voters.

“On the ground, according to what I’ve seen, Warren’s campaign is very focused on the type of person-to-person campaign,” said Sandy Dockendorff, a former Democratic president in Des Moines County who has backed Warren. “Not everything is based on wholesale ads.”

Warren has been similarly surpassed on Facebook, a critical digital platform, where he has only spent the fifth largest amount in the field, according to data covering the last 90 days. And although she has dedicated only 7 percent of her Facebook expenses to Iowa during that time, Buttigieg has invested more than 20 percent of her Facebook budget on ads in the state; Sanders has 11 percent and Biden with 14 percent. (Andrew Yang spent a remarkable 62 percent here).

At an event with voters in Marshalltown on Sunday, Warren was asked about the avalanche of ads that shaped the race. “The only thing that surpasses a television ad, the only thing that surpasses a Facebook ad, the only thing that surpasses fake news is you,” he said. “It’s you. It’s face to face. For me, this is what Iowa is about.”

As much as Iowa has the key to unlocking its 2020 ambitions, the Warren campaign has tried to invest well beyond the state. It has field staff in more than 30 states, and every Warren assistant in the first four competitions – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – has already received a redistribution allowance for Super Tuesday or more.

But almost everywhere, Warren has faced questions about how he would mate with Trump. In Iowa, Democratic voters have consistently said they place greater emphasis on a candidate’s chances of beating Trump than finding someone to share his values, by a margin of two to one for most of 2019 and between 55 and 40 percent in the last registration survey.

“I am ready to take my eyes on whether to support the candidate most likely to be moderate and win the election,” said Dea Epley Birtwistle, 62, a school social worker who attended Ms. Warren’s event in Mason City.

“It will be reduced to that question of winning,” he said. “But I don’t want to feel that I sold my vote.”

Shane Goldmacher reported from Mason City and Sydney Ember from Des Moines.

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