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Dem Race Heats Up as IA Caucus Nears   01/26 09:28

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidates have roared back 
into Iowa touting fresh endorsements, critiquing their rivals and predicting 
victories in the caucuses that will soon launch the process of deciding who 
will challenge President Donald Trump.

   Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Saturday she was "delighted" to pick up a coveted 
endorsement from The Des Moines Register. The state's largest newspaper called 
the Massachusetts Democrat "the best leader for these times" and said she "is 
not the radical some perceive her to be." But Warren's progressive rival, Sen. 
Bernie Sanders of Vermont, predicted victory in Iowa and campaigned alongside 
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of the most prominent leaders on the 
left.

   Joe Biden, meanwhile, appeared for the first time alongside Rep. Cindy Axne, 
D-Iowa, who is the latest in a growing list of local politicians backing the 
former vice president's candidacy. And Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of 
South Bend, Indiana, sought to position himself a Washington outsider above the 
partisan fray.

   But as the candidates set out to make their best case to voters, the 
volatility of the race was evident. Several candidates began their day in 
Washington, sitting as jurors in Trump's impeachment trial. They will have to 
return to Capitol Hill early next week as the trial continues, sidelining them 
from campaigning during a critical period.

   More fundamentally, there's no clear front-runner despite the fact that many 
candidates have now spent more than a year courting Iowans. A New York 
Times/Siena College poll released Saturday showed Sanders with a slight --- but 
not commanding --- edge in Iowa. But several polls show Biden, Buttigieg and 
Warren remain among the front-runners.

   "There's still plenty of time for movement," said Kurt Meyer, chairman of 
the Tri-County Democrats in northern Iowa. "Every part of the ground game 
counts." 

   Still, Sanders returned to Iowa exuding a sense of confidence. Hundreds of 
supporters filled the municipal auditorium in Ames and additional voters 
crowded an overflow room. Earlier in the night, he told voters in Marshalltown 
that he had an "excellent chance to win here in Iowa" and argued that his is 
the only campaign that can weave broad support from voters.

   "I believe that our campaign, our energy, our grassroots movement, our 
agenda is the approach that will speak to working people who, in many cases, 
have given up on politics," he said. "I think we will resonate with them. I 
think we have in the past, I think we will in the future."

   Polls suggest Biden also has a substantial appeal among Democratic voters, 
especially African Americans. While he has been critical of Sanders in the 
past, he kept his focus instead on the threat of four more years of Trump in 
the White House.

   "I don't believe we are the dark, angry nation that Donald Trump tweets 
about at night," he told a large crowd in Ankeny. "We are so much better than 
Donald Trump."

   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."

   Compared to Biden, Buttigieg was more dire in his reaction to the prospect 
of Sanders gaining strength in the Democratic contest. Hours after The New York 
Times/Siena College poll was released, his campaign sent an email to supporters 
with the subject line: "Bernie Sanders could be the nominee."

   "We need a nominee who can galvanize our country," the email said. "The 
Trump presidency will end one way or another, and when it does we need a 
president who can rally this country around a vision for the next generation. 
We know that candidate is Pete.""

   Speaking to reporters later in the day, Buttigieg stopped short of directly 
hitting Sanders, but noted that "we are getting into the heart of the 
competition."

   "I believe that we should be very mindful that the very worst risk we can 
take at a time like this is to recycle the same Washington-style of political 
warfare that that brought us to this point," he said. "If we believe it's 
important to win, and I sure do, then the best thing we could do is put forward 
a candidate who offers something new."


(KR)

 
 
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