DES MOINES — Kamala Harris appeared virtually in a prerecorded message, and addressed a field of cars, trucks and SUVs.
Other than that, it was business as usual for the Steak Fry.
The Polk County Democrats’ annual fundraiser, held Saturday evening at Des Moines Waterworks Park, had a new look amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It was held drive-in style, with attendees sitting in their cars and listening to the speakers, some of whom spoke in person, and others who appeared via video.
Applause lines in speeches were replaced by honk lines — people honked their car horns when they heard something they liked.
Harris delivered the keynote address, speaking on behalf of the Democratic ticket of former vice president Joe Biden and herself.
Biden and Harris face the incumbent Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence in a state Trump won by nearly 10 percentage points four years ago.
Recent polls on the race in Iowa have showed Trump ahead but by much more narrow margins: an average of just less than 2 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of polls here.
“When Joe asked me to join this ticket, saying yes was the easiest decision I ever made because I know what you know: we must do better than this as a country,” Harris said in her recorded address. “I don’t need to tell you what’s on the line in this race. Donald Trump shows us every day who he is.”
Harris criticized Trump’s stewardship of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, his trade policies that have contributed to declining crop prices in Iowa, and his health care and climate policies, among others.
“Simply put, we cannot afford another four years of this,” Harris said. “Joe and I are ready to serve, and to serve in the name of the people.”
Organizers said 1,200 tickets were sold for the event, 450 cars came to the park, 900 meals were eaten, and 300 watched online.
The event also included remarks from former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Buttigieg, one of the top two finishers of the 2020 Democratic Iowa caucuses along with Bernie Sanders, described a moment during the 2019 Steak Fry, when he was standing backstage near Biden while both waited their turn to speak.
“I saw then, as I saw before, the fundamental decency of our future president, someone whose first instinct is to heal and not divide,” Buttigieg said.
Pelosi borrowed from Biden’s common campaign refrain, telling attendees, “This election is about nothing less than taking back the soul of America.”
In an emailed statement, a national Republican Party spokeswoman criticized Biden and Harris for not coming to Iowa to campaign. Neither has campaigned here in person since securing the nomination.
Trump has been to Iowa once and Pence four times since this summer.
“After getting trounced in the Iowa caucuses, it’s no wonder Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have refused to return to the Hawkeye State, but ignoring Iowans for 222 days as nominees for president and vice president is shameful,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Preya Samsundar said. “Iowans, already turned-off by the Biden/Harris ticket’s radical agenda, will ensure their candidacy remains irrelevant by delivering a victory to President Trump in November.”
Despite polls showing a close race in Iowa, based on both campaigns’ activity thus far it appears Iowa may not be crucial in the presidential race. Other toss-up states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona are garnering more of the campaigns’ attention.
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