‘Good Not to Be In Washington’: Senators Return to Iowa for Burst of Campaigning

‘Good Not to Be In Washington’: Senators Return to Iowa for Burst of Campaigning


MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar dashed back to Iowa for a frenzied burst of campaigning on Saturday after a week in which they were confined to Washington for the impeachment trial of President Trump.

Their appearances took place amid signs of growing strength in Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, particularly a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely caucusgoers released Saturday that showed him leading the field in Iowa. Given the fears of some Democrats that he could be portrayed as too far to the left to defeat Mr. Trump, his show of strength is likely to alarm some of his detractors as much as it pleases his own supporters coming so close to the Feb. 3 caucuses.

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign sent a fund-raising email on Saturday warning that “Bernie Sanders could be the nominee of our party,” followed by another email that cast doubt on Mr. Sanders’s ability to beat Mr. Trump. And former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in a tweet took an implicit jab at Mr. Sanders over his campaign’s promotion of an endorsement from Joe Rogan, the popular podcast host who has been criticized for comments he has made on race and about transgender people.

Mr. Sanders, sounding a bit congested, made it to Iowa in time to attend a rally in Marshalltown with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and the filmmaker Michael Moore.

He made no mention of his poll showing, but he didn’t have to.

“We’re taking on the establishment, and the establishment is getting a little bit nervous,” he told a modest but enthusiastic crowd.

But he did take a swipe at the impeachment trial for scrambling his campaign plans.

“As you well know, we have had to radically change our schedule in the last week — kind of toss it into the garbage can and begin anew,” he said. “But we are going to be back here in Iowa in the next week every moment that we possibly can.”

Mr. Sanders plans to hold events across the northwestern part of Iowa on Sunday before the trial resumes on Monday.

Before he settled into his familiar talking points, Mr. Sanders also issued something of a warning, suggesting he was aware of the renewed attacks from rivals as he continued to display strength in Iowa and other early voting states.

“In the last week of a campaign, a lot of stuff is going to be thrown around — that’s what happens in campaigns,” he said. “But I would hope that this state, New Hampshire and the country does not lose focus on what are the most important issues.”

The day also brought good news for Ms. Warren, who returned to Iowa for the first time since the impeachment trial with a town-hall-style event at a middle school in Muscatine. “Good not to be in Washington,” she told reporters.

She was working her way through her selfie picture line when the news broke that she had received the coveted endorsement of The Des Moines Register. In other endorsements Saturday, The New Hampshire Union Leader backed Ms. Klobuchar, and The Sioux City Journal in Iowa gave its support to Mr. Biden.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who has struggled to gain traction in the primary race and has also been tethered to Washington because of the impeachment trial, traveled to New Hampshire on Saturday and planned to campaign there through the weekend.

Two other leading contenders, Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg, were not stuck in Washington this past week. Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., arrived in Iowa for the beginning of a 10-day sprint across the state before the caucuses. His first stop was a town-hall-style event before about 300 people inside of an old opera house in Fort Dodge.

Mr. Buttigieg began his remarks by reminding the audience that, after 13 months of candidate events, they were in “the final days” of the race in which he has outlasted a handful of adversaries who began the race better-known and better financed than the mayor of South Bend.

After a town-hall-style event in Storm Lake, he was asked about his campaign’s reference to Mr. Sanders in one of the fund-raising emails as “a risk we can’t take.”

“I believe that we should be very mindful that one of the worst risks we can take at a time like this is to recycle the same Washington-style political warfare that brought us to this point,” he said. “If we believe it’s important to win, then the best thing we can do is put forward a candidate who offers something new, something different and something that will break us through the dynamics that have gotten us into this era that’s just got to change.”

Mr. Biden flew to Iowa after beginning his day with an event in Salem, N.H. Speaking in an elementary school gym, Mr. Biden alluded to the impeachment trial that is playing out in Washington and reminded the crowd that he had come under relentless attack from Mr. Trump.

“My guess if you go back and turn your TV on today, you’re going to find the name ‘Biden’ mentioned many, many, many times,” Mr. Biden said. “I wonder why he doesn’t want to run against me.”

Mr. Biden also received a boost on Saturday when he picked up the endorsement of Representative Cindy Axne of Iowa, a freshman Democrat who unseated a Republican incumbent.

“He is who I believe is the one sure bet to beat Donald Trump,” Ms. Axne said in an interview.

Ms. Axne hails from the kind of swing district that was key to the party’s takeover of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, and will be crucial to its continued control of the chamber.

Ms. Axne appeared with Mr. Biden on Saturday night at an event in her district in Ankeny, a suburb of Des Moines.

“It’s not just that Joe’s been there, and he’s been in the Situation Room,” she told the crowd in Ankeny. “We also need somebody who’s running on a message of hope, a message of unification of this country.”

Mr. Biden has now been endorsed by two of Iowa’s three Democrats in Congress. Representative Abby Finkenauer, another freshman who flipped a Republican-held seat in 2018, endorsed him in early January. The state’s other House Democrat, Representative Dave Loebsack, has endorsed Mr. Buttigieg.

Ms. Axne’s district includes Iowa’s most populous city, Des Moines, and covers the southwestern corner of the state. President Barack Obama won the district in 2012, but Mr. Trump carried it in 2016. Two years later, in the midterm elections, Ms. Axne unseated a two-term Republican, David Young.

Ms. Axne said she believed that Mr. Biden would drive turnout in districts like hers, and emphasized the importance of protecting the Democratic majority in the House.

She also nodded to what she suggested was Mr. Biden’s broad appeal. “I truly believe that there are Iowans that would have some difficulty with some of the positions by other people running in this party,” she said.

Sydney Ember reported from Marshalltown, and Thomas Kaplan from Salem, N.H. Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting from Muscatine, Iowa; Reid J. Epstein from Fort Dodge, Iowa; and Maggie Astor from Ankeny, Iowa.


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