U.S. Democratic presidential candidates kicked off a final, frenetic weekend of campaigning ahead of the Iowa caucuses, which will begin the battle to take on President Donald Trump in November.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, returned to the campaign trail a day after knocking each other and progressive rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet, who were stuck in Washington for Trump’s impeachment trial, can finally get back to wooing voters after the Senate pushed final voting on the president’s fate until Wednesday.
Warren, a Massachusetts senator, missed her scheduled events but flew to Iowa late Friday night, after impeachment wrapped up for the week, and headed straight to a packed Des Moines brewery to briefly address a cheering crowd before lining up to take “selfies.” That came hours after her husband, Bruce Mann, spoke to about 700 supporters in her stead and invited anyone interested to cross the street and have a late-night beer with her.
Warren also began airing television and online ads arguing she’s the most electable candidate in a crowded primary field — capable of uniting the party and defeating Trump while silencing doubts that sexism could prevent a woman from winning the White House.
Sanders’ campaign, meanwhile, hosted a concert featuring music from the band Bon Iver as part of his effort to energize young voters, and he called into the event from Washington. He has predicted that, if turnout is high during Monday’s caucus, he will win.
Speaking on Capitol Hill before the impeachment trial wrapped up for the week, Klobuchar said her campaign would move forward even if she couldn’t be in Iowa on the day of the caucuses.
“I just say bring it on,” Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, said. “Because I just have faith in the people of the country to actually want someone with the experience of standing up.”
All face a competition that is exceedingly fluid. Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Warren are bunched at the top of most Iowa polls, and Klobuchar has shown signs of strength in recent weeks. Everyone is looking for a strong finish here that could lift them heading into later contests that will help decide the Democratic nomination.
In a race this jumbled, competition is intensifying among the candidates to at least emerge from Iowa as the leader of their ideological lanes. For Sanders and Warren, the caucus represents an opportunity to consolidate support from progressives. They both back priorities such as universal, government-funded health care under “Medicare for All” and wiping out virtually all student debt. But neither has yet pulled away as the undisputed leader of the party’s left flank.
“The only way to not have that issue is to have one win and the other lose,” said Rebecca Katz, a liberal Democratic strategist based in New York. “I think what you see is the progressive wing is very big and has a lot of needs. It’s not something where, all of a sudden, one becomes the leading progressive and all fall in line. Especially if they finish one-two (in Iowa). It’s not cut and dried.”
The moderate slice of the party is also struggling to unite behind options that include Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.