“We’ve had enough divisiveness over the last couple years,” said Amy Young, a college professor, whom Ms. Gillibrand pitched about finding common ground at a coffee shop in Ames. “We are one country. We need to remember that.”
Linda Santi, who met Ms. Gillibrand in Sioux City, said: “She talked about running in a red congressional district. That was important to me. How do we talk? How do we engage Trump voters in civil discourse?”
Ms. Santi saw Ms. Warren on her recent visit — Iowans famously love to size up their presidential candidates in person before making a decision — and said Ms. Gillibrand’s arrival was far more “downscale”: no street vendors hawking goods, no organized selfie line.
“Warren was pressing the populist button in more of an us-them kind of way,” Ms. Santi said.
In Sioux City, Ms. Gillibrand did get a question about her decision to become the first Democratic senator to call for the resignation of the former senator Al Franken in late 2017 following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Some Democratic donors and activists had lamented his departure and her role in it.
“Enough was enough,” Ms. Gillibrand said of the final allegation.
“Al Franken was entitled to whatever process he wanted,” she said. “If he wanted to stay and wait six months for his ethics hearing, he was entitled to whatever he wanted. His decision was to resign. My decision was not to remain silent.”
Several people at her events said they learned much of what they know about her from television appearance this week, including on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC, where Ms. Gillibrand was a guest. Ms. Maddow opened the interview by dissecting Ms. Gillibrand’s shifting stances.
“Tell me about that transformation,” Ms. Maddow pointedly began her questioning.
“I understand her policy positions have evolved,” said Rick Mullin, 65, who attended the house party with Ms. Gillibrand in Sioux City. He was sympathetic. His positions have shifted, too. “Not as much as hers have,” he added.