For Klobuchar, Iowa is her neighbor to the south—“We can see it from our porch in Minnesota” is the line she uses—conveniently located in geography and order on the primary calendar. A win in the Iowa caucuses could validate her pitch that the 2020 election is calling out for someone who can link the years her grandfather spent working in a mine to the “grit” to stand in a snowstorm for her own campaign announcement two weeks ago, and connect a purported hard-nosed pragmatism to years of big wins in her home state. For Harris, the state is the essential test of whether the parts of the country far from the square in Oakland where 22,000 stood in the streets for her announcement rally last month are really ready for a half-Jamaican, half-Indian woman from California who speaks bluntly about what’s gone wrong with America…

Already in two weeks as a candidate, Klobuchar has started wearing creases into some of the lines she keeps using. Harris, meanwhile, has been delivering the same stump speech almost verbatim since hitting the midterm trail (including here in Iowa) in October, telling the same jokes, as if each time an ad lib has just come to her, like when she mocks smooth-talking candidates for sprinkling “lovely dust.” Beyond the performance skills as a candidate that Harris is demonstrating as she continues to introduce herself to voters who’ve never seen her in person before, she notably does not vary the speech much, no matter who’s in the crowd. Some bits get cycled in more frequently when she’s in front of minority audiences, like when she hammers the wage gap for black and Latino women, or mentions the radically higher mortality rate for new mothers, but nearly every audience hears her talk about Russian interference, just like nearly every audience hears her say that parents of 12-year-old black boys shouldn’t have to sit down with their sons and have “the talk” about how police are more likely to harass them because of the color of their skin.