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'Don't call it a comeback': Kamala Harris tries out new songs and stumps in Iowa

Updated 7:00 PM ET, Tue October 8, 2019

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - On a recent brisk fall night in the shadow of a water tower in Ankeny, Iowa, Kamala Harris bounded on stage to LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out."

"Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years," the speakers blared over the clapping and cheering crowd at the senator's second town hall in two days in the Des Moines area.

It's a new walkout song -- personally chosen by Harris, according to a senior campaign aide -- for what the Harris team hopes is a new chapter of her campaign here.

Amid flat poll numbers in Iowa, the Democratic presidential candidate is honing in on the first-in-the-nation caucus state with a new approach of more intimate events, according to campaign officials. A September CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll had Harris polling at 6%.

"We're not just doing town halls," Deidre DeJear, Iowa state chair for the Harris campaign, told CNN. "We're giving her an opportunity to meet Iowans to hear more of their stories and hear more of their most intimate details about what's going on in their lives."

In addition to smaller events, Harris has rolled out a new stump speech over her past few events that directly embraces her history as a prosecutor, according to the senior campaign aide.

Harris has addressed her past as a prosecutor in various speeches before, primarily before NAACP audiences. But now she's devoting a larger portion of her stump speech to the beginning and achievements of her career, per the campaign aide.

As Harris spoke to the Ankeny crowd, she spent more time on how began her legal career as a prosecutor, when she first uttered "for the people." Harris spent less time on the specific issues, weaving her career into a larger theme of seeking justice -- on the ballot, for the environment, and for women as examples, the aide told CNN.

It's an approach the campaign is hoping will reinvigorate her support in Iowa, but her campaign stopped short of calling it a reboot.

"I wouldn't call it a reboot because, for the most part, our campaign and how we've been building has been just that -- building," DeJear said. "We're not tearing down anything that we've established thus far, it's just building upon that in order for us to just drive home her message."

During this recent swing through Iowa, which wraps Tuesday night, Harris hosted two larger town halls but attended multiple smaller events in an effort to connect more personally with Iowans.

"It's basically about doing what I think is an important part of the process which is engaging with people on the ground, where they live, in their neighborhoods, in their homes, to talk about the issues that concern them and address them," Harris told reporters Sunday night.

Among voters CNN spoke with at two Iowa town hall events, Harris was well-liked and intriguing to many of them -- even ranking in many voters' top three candidates. But some expressed confusion about her exact policy positions, though few were willing to discount Harris' candidacy, saying there was still time amid a volatile news cycle with the unfolding impeachment inquiry.

"I didn't learn anything new about where she stands on anything," Betsy West, an Ames, Iowa resident, told CNN after seeing Harris speak at Sunday night's town hall. "I didn't find her responses to the questions particularly thoughtful."

West continued: "She said the right things. But I don't have any real sense of where her real passions are."


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