The Washington Post

In marathon rally, 19 can­di­dates vie for Iowa’s at­ten­tion

- BY SEAN SUL­LI­VAN sean.sul­li­van@wash­post.com U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · US Elections · Iowa · Joe Biden · Donald Trump · White House · Democratic Party (United States) · Vermont · Indiana · California · New York · Des Moines · Elizabeth Warren · Massachusetts · Texas · New Jersey · Tim Ryan · Ohio · Montana · Democratic National Committee · Cedar Rapids, IA · Maryland · Iowa Democratic Party · Bernie Sanders · South Bend · Pete Buttigieg · Kirsten Gillibrand · Mediacom Communications Corp. · Andrew Yang · Warren (near Fellows), California · Cory Booker · Eric Swalwell · John Delaney

cedar rapids, iowa — Some of Joe Bi­den’s lead­ing ri­vals for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion warned Sun­day that em­brac­ing a cau­tious plat­form in 2020 could hand Pres­i­dent Trump a se­cond term, mak­ing an im­plicit ar­gu­ment against his can­di­dacy at the largest gath­er­ing of White House hope­fuls so far this year.

Speak­ing at the Iowa Demo­cratic Party’s an­nual Hall of Fame cel­e­bra­tion, Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.) as­serted that a “mid­dle ground strat­egy that an­tag­o­nizes no one, that stands up to no­body and changes noth­ing,” amounts to a failed blue­print that could lead to Trump’s re­elec­tion.

Later, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete But­tigieg warned of dire elec­toral consequenc­es. “We’re not go­ing to win by play­ing it safe or promis­ing to re­turn to nor­mal,” he said.

Nei­ther San­ders nor But­tigieg men­tioned Bi­den, who was no­tice­ably miss­ing from the fes­tiv­i­ties. He skipped them to at­tend his grand­daugh­ter’s high school grad­u­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to his cam­paign ad­vis­ers. Bi­den is headed to Iowa on Tuesday — the same day Pres­i­dent Trump is sched­uled to be in the state.

But their rhetoric built on ar­gu­ments they ad­vanced in speeches last week at the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion, which have been widely in­ter­preted as a case against the former vice pres­i­dent. Bi­den has adopted more mod­er­ate views than many of his com­peti­tors, and he has ar­gued that the Trump pres­i­dency is an aber­ra­tion.

In cast­ing doubts about his electabil­ity, his Demo­cratic op­po­nents are at­tempt­ing to sub­vert what Bi­den’s cham­pi­ons be­lieve is one of his chief strengths: They think he can de­feat Trump by ap­peal­ing to Democrats, mod­er­ates and some Repub­li­cans in a way no one else in the sprawl­ing field can. Many Demo­cratic vot­ers have said that a can­di­date’s electabil­ity against Trump is the most im­por­tant qual­ity for them.

Nine­teen can­di­dates spoke at TOP: Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand (N.Y.) was one of 19 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to speak Sun­day in Iowa at the party’s Hall of Fame cel­e­bra­tion. Though can­di­dates did not men­tion former vice pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den by name, many in­di­rectly com­pared their poli­cies and view­points with his. ABOVE: Sen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris (Calif.) was also present for the rally, with her sup­port­ers gath­ered out­side be­fore the event hold­ing signs and chant­ing, “It’s time for a wo­man in the White House!” the cel­e­bra­tion, de­liv­er­ing a rapid-fire se­ries of speeches that were cut off by mu­sic when they ex­tended be­yond their al­lot­ted five min­utes. Many em­pha­sized the need to tackle cli­mate change, en­sure uni­ver­sal health care and pro­tect abor­tion rights. But on those is­sues, they dif­fered on the de­tails.

The gath­er­ing came amid signs of a wide-open Demo­cratic race in Iowa that ap­peared to be as un­set­tled as the broader bat­tle for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion play­ing out across the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to a Des Moines Reg­is­ter/CNN/Me­di­a­com poll of Iowa re­leased Satur­day night, Bi­den led the Demo­cratic pack with 24 per­cent. But San­ders (16 per­cent), Sen. Eliz­a­beth Warren (D-Mass.) (15 per­cent) and But­tigieg (14 per­cent) were not far be­hind. Warren and But­tigieg had surged since the last sur­vey, the poll said, and San­ders had de­clined.

With one ex­cep­tion, no one men­tioned the lead­ing can­di­date by name. “Joe Bi­den must re­ally not like to travel,” quipped entreprene­ur An­drew Yang, elic­it­ing some groans in the crowd.

In more sub­tle ways, other can­di­dates seemed to al­lude to Bi­den — or at least the wing of the party that he oc­cu­pies.

“I’m not spend­ing my time with high-dol­lar donors and with cor­po­rate lob­by­ists,” said Warren. “I’m spend­ing my time with you. That’s how we build a grass-roots move­ment in Amer­ica.” Bi­den has aggressive­ly raised money from wealthy pa­trons, some of whom have given to Warren in the past.

“I don’t think there is room in our party for a Demo­cratic can­di­date who does not sup­port women’s full re­pro­duc­tive free­dom,” said Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand (D-N.Y.). Bi­den came un­der heavy crit­i­cism from Democrats last week for op­pos­ing the re­peal of a law re­strict­ing the use of fed­eral funds for abor­tions. Af­ter the out­cry, he swiftly re­versed him­self.

The pageantry of the event pro­vided a vivid snap­shot of how ex­pan­sive and wide open the Demo­cratic field has be­come. And it of­fered a pre­view of the jock­ey­ing that is likely to un­fold on the side­lines of the up­com­ing tele­vised de­bates, which will be­gin later this month.

Hours be­fore the speeches kicked off in­side a mas­sive ho­tel ball­room here, the cam­paigns packed the side­walks out­side with sup­port­ers who com­peted to be the loud­est and most en­thu­si­as­tic.

“It’s time for a wo­man in the White House!” chanted sup­port­ers of Sen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris (DCalif.) as they bobbed cam­paign signs above their heads. Across the street stood sup­port­ers of former Texas con­gress­man Beto O’Rourke, dressed in dark col­ors. On the next block, the team of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) spelled out his first name in gi­ant let­ters.

A shirt­less man marched up and down the side­walk out­side the event. He held a sign that read: “Yes, there are nine­teen of them. No, they did not all come in the same car.”

In­side, the can­di­dates sought to dis­tin­guish them­selves from oth­ers in the ex­pan­sive pack.

But­tigieg ar­gued in his speech that Repub­li­cans do not have a mo­nop­oly on Amer­i­can val­ues and touched on a topic that most other Demo­cratic con­tenders have rarely broached: re­li­gion.

“God does not be­long to any po­lit­i­cal party — least of all the one that pro­duced this cur­rent pres­i­dent,” he said.

Some can­di­dates ac­knowl­edged the mas­sive field with hu­mor or pop cul­ture ref­er­ences.

“It’s been a pleasure speed dat­ing with you tonight,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). “If you want a se­cond date, go to tim­ryan­foramer­ica.com.”

Rep. Eric Swal­well (D-Calif.) likened the huge crop of can­di­dates to “The Avengers.” By com­par­i­son, the large Repub­li­can field in 2016 was “The Hunger Games,” he said.

At least one can­di­date aired a griev­ance. “Thanks for not chang­ing the rules this week for who gets to be on this stage,” said Mon­tana Gov. Steve Bul­lock, who is at se­ri­ous risk of be­ing shut out of the first de­bates due to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion to nar­row the qual­i­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria it had ini­tially an­nounced.

Lesser-known can­di­dates tried to leave a last­ing im­pres­sion on the crush of Demo­cratic ac­tivists and mem­bers of the news me­dia that de­scended on Cedar Rapids this week­end. Their ef­forts weren’t al­ways smooth.

Young staffers for former Mary­land con­gress­man John De­laney’s cam­paign fran­ti­cally tried to blow up a small blimp bear­ing the can­di­date’s logo to float above the crowd of Democrats ral­ly­ing ahead of the main event. Can af­ter can of helium was de­posited, at least a half dozen in all, try­ing to get the craft off the ground, but it sim­ply wouldn’t float.

Fi­nally, a De­laney staffer urged them to carry the blimp above their heads. “Hoist it up,” he said. And off they marched across the street, long af­ter many Democrats had al­ready headed in­side. Holly Bai­ley con­trib­uted to this re­port.

 ?? PHO­TOS BY CHAR­LIE NEIBERGALL/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ??
PHO­TOS BY CHAR­LIE NEIBERGALL/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS
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