What I heard from the voters I talked to was mounting angst and indecision. That Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are too far to the left. That Biden is too old. That Pete Buttigieg is too young. That Tom Steyer has too much money. I heard them yearn for a candidate who was just right, squarely in the middle, in the middle of the age range, and of the political spectrum, and of the country itself. And I heard these voters, men and women, self-described moderates interested enough to at least come to watch Klobuchar, 59, praise her for her bipartisan bent and legislative success and the way she’s run this race, and then often stop short of pledging their full support. Almost every conversation I had eventually touched on her gender. And it wasn’t just “old white guys” who seemed to have doubts.

Back in Ottumwa, for instance, I met a retired teacher named Miriam Kenning. She described Warren to me as one her “heroes,” because “she persisted,” she said. “And I think Amy, she speaks directly, and I think that’s really good, and I like her very much,” said Kenning, 69. She paused. I waited for the but. “I think because of Hillary,” she continued, referring to Clinton’s 2016 defeat, “I am very frightened about what will happen.” She told me she’s undecided, but it sure sounded like she was leaning toward Biden. “He’s kind, and he’s good, and he’s brave,” she said. She called the prospect of caucusing for him “logical.”

“Do you think,” I asked her, “this country is a country that would vote for a young gay man for president before it would vote for a woman of any kind?”

She answered my blunt question with a blunt answer.

“Yes.”