Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa

Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa

Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Energy: EPA official steps down after indictment on ethics charges | Sanders to hold town hall on climate | Zinke slams 'environmental radicals' for fires Sanders to host town hall on climate change Sanders on 2020 White House bid: 'We're looking at it' MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders on 2020 White House bid: 'We're looking at it' Dem bundler: Donors waiting on 2020 commitments until Beto O'Rourke makes decision Jim Carrey rails against 'incredibly dangerous' Trump, calls him a 'melanoma' MORE (D-Calif.) will be in Iowa over the next few days to campaign for Democratic candidates, giving them a chance to distinguish themselves in front of voters in a state that will hold the first-in-the-nation caucuses in February 2020.

The two high-profile senators will be in the Hawkeye State to campaign for Democrats running for congressional seats and state offices in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. While neither lawmaker has announced they will run for president, the visits put them in front of voters who will play a crucial role in shaping the 2020 primaries.

“This is the time when you have to begin to come to Iowa,” said Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt, adding that candidates “have to capture a good number of Democrats who will be attending the caucuses.”

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Having a strong organization is important to succeed in the caucuses, he said, since candidates need people to show up and support them in every precinct.

The visits by Sanders and Harris are part of broader efforts to campaign for Democrats in the midterms. Iowa is part of a nine-state tour for Sanders, and Harris will be there after stops in South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Sanders is scheduled to be in Iowa on Saturday and Sunday. He will campaign for former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten, who is running against GOP Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingDems must wield power against the powerful to win back rural America Iowa governor: Steve King needs to decide if he wants to represent ‘the values of the 4th District’ Conservative magazine posts recording of King using derogatory language against immigrants MORE, a prominent immigration hardliner, in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. The race is rated “likely Republican” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Sanders will attend several events with Scholten: rallies in Sioux City and Ames; a town hall focused on Social Security; and a homecoming parade at Iowa State University. The rally in Ames will also include Deidre DeJear, who is running for Iowa secretary of state and is the first black major-party nominee for a statewide office in Iowa.

Harris is scheduled to visit on Monday and Tuesday, participating in early voting rallies in various locations in the state, including the Des Moines area and Cedar Rapids.

A number of those events will be held on college campuses, including a rally at Des Moines Area Community College with congressional candidate Cindy Axne and a couple of candidates for state legislature. Axne, a small-business owner, is looking to unseat GOP Rep. David YoungDavid Edmund YoungIowa New Members 2019 McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote Dem Axne beats GOP Rep. Young in Iowa MORE in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District — a race rated a “toss-up” by Cook.

Iowa could be a key state in Democrats’ quest to take control of the House. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win the majority, and there are three GOP-held congressional districts in Iowa that could flip. In addition to the races involving Scholten and Axne, state lawmaker Abby Finkenauer is running against Rep. Rod Blum (R) in the 1st Congressional District in a race Cook rates as “lean Democratic.”

There are also state-level races that Democrats are hoping to win, including DeJear’s and the gubernatorial one.

DeJear spokeswoman Cynthia Sebian-Lander said it’s important to get students excited about the upcoming election and that it helps to have big names help with the campaigning.

“Lots of early voting locations are going to be open next week, so it’s a great time to visit,” Sebian-Lander said.

The midterm campaign trips also give possible presidential candidates the chance to test out messages and connect with people who might help their eventual campaigns.

Sanders has experience campaigning in Iowa. He narrowly lost the 2016 Iowa Democratic caucuses to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation Questions grow about FBI vetting of Christopher Steele’s Russia expertise MORE.

Harris, however, isn’t very well known in the state. This will be her first visit to Iowa since the 2008 presidential cycle, when she campaigned for then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMichelle Obama's memoir is 2018's fastest-selling book at Barnes & Noble Dem bundler: Donors waiting on 2020 commitments until Beto O'Rourke makes decision Leon Panetta’s nightmare is today's national security crisis MORE during her tenure as San Francisco district attorney.

Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, said Harris’s visit gives her an opportunity to introduce herself to Iowa voters.

“There’s a draw and anticipation of meeting her for the first time,” he said. The Polk County Democrats are hosting an event with Harris and DeJear on Monday, and Bagniewski estimated that about 500 people will attend, more than initially expected.

Prominent Republicans have also been showing up in Iowa in advance of the Nov. 6 midterm elections. President TrumpDonald John TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE visited earlier this month, and Vice President Pence made the trip on Friday.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism On The Money: Senate banking panel showcases 2020 Dems | Koch groups urge Congress not to renew tax breaks | Dow down nearly 400 | Cuomo defends Amazon HQ2 deal Koch groups: Congress shouldn't renew expired tax breaks MORE (R-Wis.), who’s retiring from Congress in early January, will be in Iowa on Tuesday to campaign for Young. He’s also expected to campaign for Blum before the midterms.

Harris and Sanders are not the only possible Democratic presidential candidates making stops in Iowa this month.

Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerElection Countdown: Florida fight ends with Scott, DeSantis wins | Dems see Sunbelt in play for 2020 | Trump to campaign in Mississippi ahead of runoff | GOP wipeout in Orange County | Ortiz Jones concedes in Texas House race Booker to make second visit to New Hampshire in weeks Sanders on 2020 White House bid: 'We're looking at it' MORE (D-N.J.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyWarren, 2020 Dems target private immigration detention center operators Merkley seeking to change Oregon law so he can run for president and Senate in 2020: report ICE has record number of people in custody: report MORE (D-Ore.), as well as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), have made visits to the state in recent days and weeks, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has been spending part of this weekend in the state.

Hickenlooper spoke on Friday at the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines and headlined meet-and-greet events to support state legislature candidates. He is participating in canvas kickoff events Saturday with the Iowa Democratic Coordinated Campaign, said Brad Komar, executive director for Hickenlooper's leadership PAC.

Having Sanders, Harris and Hickenlooper in the state over the course of a few days is just a taste of what’s in store between now and the Feb. 3, 2020, caucuses.

“It’s going to be busy, for sure,” Bagniewski said.