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Warren Takes Democratic Presidential Campaign To West Virginia, Ohio


Some of the 21 Democratic presidential candidates are looking beyond the earliest states to vote. The voting starts, of course, in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben reports on where else you may find Elizabeth Warren.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: A West Virginia town of fewer than 400 people isn't an obvious place for a Democrat to campaign for president. But nevertheless, even with Trump supporters protesting just outside, there was Elizabeth Warren rallying her supporters in the town of Kermit.


ELIZABETH WARREN: There comes a time when the fight comes to your door. And for me, that time is now. I believe in an America that works.

KURTZLEBEN: Kermit has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, and Warren spent a lot of her Friday speech talking about her new plan for combating that epidemic.


WARREN: It's time to talk about personal responsibility, and that means the people who helped create this problem. And I've got a plan for that.

KURTZLEBEN: This latest campaign swing started in rural West Virginia but moved into larger cities in Ohio, another state badly hurt by the epidemic. Having plans is Warren's brand. And Warren's library of policy proposals is drawing voters like Rebecca Hooker, who came out to hear about college affordability.

REBECCA HOOKER: The big one that I'm hearing a lot of press about that affects a lot of people is college loan forgiveness. I'm 53 years old, went back and completed my degree. And now I'm struggling with college debt.

KURTZLEBEN: For others, it's not just about what's in the plans. It's the fact that the plans exist. Here's Patricia Casserly, a plumber who saw Warren in Columbus.

PATRICIA CASSERLY: Plain and simple - she's got follow-through, you know? A lot of them say a lot, but they don't do much.

KURTZLEBEN: But going to Columbus isn't just about energizing people like Casserly. These days, polls show Warren vying for third place, well behind the familiar names of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. So a trip through Ohio also gets Warren much more exposure.

CHRIS REDFERN: Columbus, for instance, is larger than Boston and Baltimore and Washington, D.C. It's one of the top 15 cities in the country.

KURTZLEBEN: That's Chris Redfern, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

REDFERN: She knows she's going to be on the front page of the newspaper, leading all of telecasts. It's going to give her a chance to speak out and give voters a chance to compare her ideas with Joe Biden, who's a very attractive candidate in Ohio as well.

KURTZLEBEN: Those newscasts may not be full of Warren policy ideas, though. For being the woman with a plan, Warren spends an awful lot of her stump speech talking about her life before she became a Harvard law professor.


WARREN: And then, at 19, I fell in love. Yay.


WARREN: Oh - and got married - yay...


WARREN: ...And dropped out of school - oh.

KURTZLEBEN: That resonated with Sharon Wagner, herself a retired schoolteacher.

SHARON WAGNER: She's real. She tells things like they are. And she's just like one of us. She doesn't try to put on a show.

KURTZLEBEN: But then Wagner is an example of one of the biggest hurdles Warren faces. Wagner likes Warren but isn't settled on her. In fact, none of the voters in this piece say Warren is their first choice. Deborah Stanton, who stood in line to see Warren in Cincinnati, is yet another. She thinks highly of the senator.

DEBORAH STANTON: I think she's a very strong candidate. She has been for years. I'm just glad she decided to run.

KURTZLEBEN: And yet...

STANTON: I'm more leaning towards Biden.

KURTZLEBEN: What do you like about Biden?

STANTON: His experience - years and years of experience - plus, he's been vice president.

KURTZLEBEN: In this race, it's not just enough for voters to like you. It's about being the candidate voters like best out of a field of nearly two dozen. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.