WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris portrayed herself as a pragmatist rather than an ideological politician as she seeks to differentiate herself among the top tier of candidates in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary.

“My motivation is truly about how can I fix the problems that wake people up in the middle of the night,” she told Bloomberg News Sunday aboard her bus on a five-day trip across Iowa. “Wherever that fits on someone’s ideological spectrum, have at it.”

In explaining her approach, Harris said issues that matter most to voters don’t fall along ideological lines.

“When it comes to the basic things that do wake people up in the middle of the night, where would you put on the spectrum of ideology that everyone should have health care?” Harris said. “Where would you put on the spectrum that every child should have a decent education?”

She added: “I think it’s just a nice subject for a graduate school class, but it’s not how people are living life.”

Harris, 54, has been unable to whittle away support from front-runner Joe Biden or top Elizabeth Warren after seizing the spotlight at the first debate in July with a harsh critique of the former vice president’s opposition to busing in the 1970s. A Quinnipiac poll last week showed Biden leading nationally at 32%, with Harris in fourth place at 7%. Among African-American voters, Harris, who is black, fares worse: Biden 47%, Harris only 1%

“I was not a national figure before this race,” Harris said. “There are people who were national figures. There were people who ran for president before at least once, if not a couple of times, and so it is perfectly logical to me that I have to earn people’s recognition and support.”

Harris declined an opportunity to discuss Biden’s two most recent gaffes — saying “poor kids” are just as smart as “white kids” and confusing the 2012 Sandy Hook and 2018 Parkland school shootings.

“I just think that I can’t speculate about where he was coming from when he said it,” she said.

But she was harshly critical of President Donald Trump’s trade policies and its effects on Americans as she prepared to visit a farm in Laconia, Iowa.

“I’ll tell you what trade should not be and it’s what Trump has done,” she said. “He made a bunch of promises to everyone from farmworkers to autoworkers that he broke, he betrayed all these people. He took unilateral action, meaning he worked with no one, to implement his so-called trade policy by tweet and it has resulted in Iowa farmers now looking at bankruptcy.”

Harris said her administration would take a collaborative approach to trade.

“I think we have to have a trade policy that is about protecting the American worker and all that we want in terms of wages and benefits and workplace safety,” she said.


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