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Dems' Electability Fight Rages in Iowa 01/27 06:15

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- 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.

   Seizing on concerns about Sanders, Democratic rival Sen. Amy Klobuchar told 
reporters after a campaign appearance in Ames that she was more electable and 
would be a better candidate at the top of the ticket than the Vermont senator.

   "My argument is that I will make our tent bigger, our coalition wider, and 
my coattails (are) longer," Klobuchar said. "I actually have the receipts. I do 
not come from a state that's as blue as Vermont."

   The youngest candidate in the race, 38-year-old Pete Buttigieg, also played 
up warnings about Sanders --- at least in his fundraising emails. For a second 
consecutive day, Buttigieg's campaign sent a message to supporters warning that 
the Vermont senator might become the nominee. 

   Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, insisted that "it is 
time for something new" as he courted more than 1,000 people at an elementary 
school in West Des Moines. 

   "We cannot run the risk of trying to defeat this president with the same 
Washington political warfare mentality that brought us to this point," he said, 
declining to single out any of his rivals. "It is time for something different. 
It is time to turn the page."

   As a deep sense of uncertainty loomed over the Iowa contest, Trump's 
impeachment trial remained a major complication. 

   Four candidates will be compelled by the Constitution to sit as jurors in 
Trump's Senate impeachment trial. The proceedings make it virtually impossible 
for the senators --- Sanders, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar 
of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado --- to appear in Iowa during the 
week, although there is some sense that the trial could be over by week's end.

   As Iowa drew the most focus, billionaire candidate Tom Steyer reminded union 
workers in Nevada, which hosts the third contest on the primary calendar, that 
he hasn't forgotten about them.

   "I'm know that I'm the only person who showed up here," Steyer told 
reporters at a union conference in Las Vegas. "I try to show up and show that I 
care."

   Back in Iowa, Warren tried to maintain some momentum after picking up a 
coveted endorsement from The Des Moines Register. The newspaper called her "the 
best leader for these times" and said she "is not the radical some perceive her 
to be" even if "some of her ideas for 'big, structural change' go too far."

   Warren leaned into her gender as she courted several hundred voters at an 
elementary school gymnasium in Davenport.

   "We took back the House and we took back statehouses around the nation 
because of women candidates and the women who get out there and do the hard 
work," she said.

   Biden scored the endorsement of the Sioux City Journal, which called him 
"the candidate best positioned to give Americans a competitive head-to-head 
matchup with President Trump" and said he would be best at attracting support 
from "independents and disgruntled Republicans."

   The former vice president's itinerary reflected his ability to assemble just 
that kind of coalition. A devout Catholic, Biden attended Mass in Des Moines in 
the morning, spoke at a union hall and then faced a gathering of the NAACP and 
other minority advocacy groups.

   "I was raised in the black church politically. Not a joke," Biden told a man 
who asked about his engagement with the faith-based minority community. 

   "That's where my political identity comes from," he said of the black 
community.


(KR)

 
 
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