The urgent fight for the Democratic presidential nomination raged across Iowa on Sunday as the party’s leading candidates scrambled to deliver closing arguments centered on the defining question of the 2020 primary: Who can beat President Donald Trump?
Former Vice President Joe Biden demonstrated the breadth of his appeal by appearing at separate events with Catholics, union members and African Americans. He told black voters with a smile that “I’ve gone to more black churches than you have, probably, because I’m older.”
At the same time, the fight for the heart of the progressive movement pitted Elizabeth Warren against Bernie Sanders with dueling rallies hundreds of miles apart as they raced to reach voters before being forced back to Washington when Trump’s impeachment trial resumed Monday. With Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses just eight days away, it was unclear when the senators would be able to return to the state.
“We gotta win,” Warren told several hundred people in Davenport, on the eastern edge of the state. “And also, can we just address it right here? Women win. The world changed when Donald Trump got elected.”
At a subsequent rally in Cedar Rapids, a voter asked why people should caucus for Warren instead of Sanders. She replied: “I know how to fight and I know how to win.”
Sanders made an equally aggressive case almost 300 miles to the west in Sioux City, having spent much of the weekend highlighting his ability to energize what he has often called “a multi-generational, multi-racial, working-class coalition.”
“When I look at the size of this crowd I am absolutely convinced that, a week from Monday, we make history. We win the Iowa caucus,” Sanders declared in what was his fifth campaign appearance of the day.
The candidates were running out of time to change the direction of the high-stakes nomination fight ahead of Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses, the first of four primary contests in February in which momentum is critical. Establishment-minded Democrats were increasingly concerned about Sanders’ strength, fearing that the 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist might be too radical to beat Trump this fall should he win the nomination.
Stoking those fears, Trump’s campaign teased a general election attack against Sanders. The Vermont senator had spent much of the day before campaigning alongside New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the president’s team sent out an email with the title “Socialist invasion.”
“Why is radical socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spending so much time campaigning for Bernie? Because he’s the godfather of her extreme agenda and socialist vision for America,” the email said.