YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (Reuters) – US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand crossed Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan last week in a bus bearing the inscription "He broke it, we are going to fix it "as part of a campaign tour highlighting what she called President Donald Trump" unfulfilled promises "to the region.
Gillibrand told the licensed auto workers in Youngstown, Ohio, and the health workers in Pittsburgh, that she would repair the damage caused by the Trump presidency if voters chose her as a Democratic candidate to take it in November 2020.
But to do that, she will need a significant boost. The New York senator is stuck at the bottom of the national polls of the 25 candidates in the group, and time is running out.
Taking a stand for selfies with voters after a public meeting on gun violence in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on Friday, Gillibrand said she needed thousands of additional supporters to qualify for the third democratic primary debate in mid-September.
"I still have a month and a half to do that," she said in an interview with Reuters. "It's a heavy lift, but I'm going to do it."
To gain a place in the September debate, candidates must garner at least 2% of the vote in four national or advance polls, and have 130,000 unique donors, including 400 in 20 separate states.
Gillibrand failed to ignite after an enthusiastic performance at the first televised debate in June. It received only 1% support among Democratic voters in a Reuters / Ipsos survey conducted from June 29 to July 2 and was less than 1% in a poll NBC / WSJ released Thursday.
Gillibrand's campaign did not reveal the total amount of its last fundraising before the Monday deadline for the second quarter, which is a likely sign that it did not raise as much money as it did. his opponents.
In any other election cycle, Gillibrand and her rivals, including Senators Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, as well as former head of the Obama administration's housing, Julian Castro, would be prominent candidates, said Democratic strategists.
But she is in an overcrowded field competing to attract donors and attract media attention with nationally known candidates such as former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.
"I do not think it's a reflection of a bad campaign or a bad candidate," said Doug Thornell of SKDKnickerbocker, a democratic strategy firm founded by veterans of the Obama administration. . "If history is a guide, she should have the opportunity to take a second look."
SEARCH FOR A SECOND LOOK
Gillibrand, 52, looked for that second look in three US Midwest states that Trump had snatched from Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, touting a political resume that she cited as evidence that she was not the only one in the US. it could win more conservative and influential voters.
Before joining the Senate, she represented a very Republican congressional district in upstate New York, where she had been told that she could not win as a Democrat.
After being appointed as a vacant Senator when Hillary Clinton became Barack Obama's Secretary of State, Gillibrand was re-elected in a 2010 special election. She won full terms in 2012 and 2018, the year she was elected. won almost every county, including 18 Trump won in 2016.
Although Gillibrand is better known nationally for his work on sexual assault in the military and his call for the resignation of former Democratic Senator Al Franken for sexually inappropriate conduct, she notes she has spent the last 10 years engaged in agriculture and infrastructure.
During modest-sized campaign events, Gillibrand took notes in a leather notebook and stated that his "super power" was the ability to find a common ground on n & # 39; Any political issue with anyone, anywhere. Gillibrand relied on her experience as a mother of sons aged 11 and 15 to explain racial disparities in sentencing for marijuana and the "white privilege" to a mother who said that White voters are also suffering. At more than one event, she said her district of New York was not so different from the Midwest areas where she had been campaigning.
"There is no choice but to introduce yourself, to meet electors, to talk to them about your vision and to listen to them and their concerns," Gillibrand said in her interview with Reuters.
"I do not have the unanimous recognition of names," she added, "so it will take me a long time to introduce myself to the four corners of this country."
Political strategist Karen Finney, a spokesperson for Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, said that Gillibrand's slow and steady campaign could lead to the breakup she needs – if she has the time and the # 39; money.
Finney said the fight that Gillibrand showed in his first congressional race could allow him to persevere long enough to attract voters with a bold policy proposal, or to justify the merits of his Trump defense.
"I think part of what people liked was that she did not give in, that she did not ask no for an answer, so she's meant to remind the people what they like about you, "Finney said.
Almost all the voters who spoke to Reuters at the Gillibrand events said they were in the window-shopping phase.
Jaladah Aslam, a union and political adviser who introduced Gillibrand at the Youngstown event, was among the undecided. She then praised Gillibrand's performance, noting that she had seen people nodding and loving what they had heard.
"She was ready," said Aslam. "She did not stumble. I loved it when she started taking notes. Thank God, someone listens and does not come here to make us a political speech. "
The reports of Amanda Becker; Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Chizu Nomiyama