Biden faces challenge from Warren in Iowa

Biden faces challenge from Warren in Iowa
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry MORE has had a steady lead in Iowa polls, but Democratic strategists say Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment MORE (D-Mass.) is rising and poses the greatest risk to him in the Hawkeye State. 

Iowa has long been seen as a tough state for Biden, as its caucusgoers tend to go for more progressive candidates.

That would seem to fit the bill for Warren, though she is battling fellow progressive Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment MORE (I-Vt.) for support among Iowa caucusgoers.

A Monmouth poll released last week provided great news for Warren, showing her with 19 percent and ahead of both Sanders (9 percent) and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOutsider candidates outpoll insider candidates Poll: Buttigieg leads Democratic field in Iowa Press: Another billionaire need not apply MORE (D-Calif.), who won 11 percent.

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But Biden was still in first, with 28 percent.

“I would definitely say she is the largest threat to Joe Biden,” Pat Rynard, founder of the popular Iowa Democratic news site Iowa Starting Line, said of Warren.

“My main observation is that she is the coalition candidate. She is the one in the field who can appeal to progressive activists while not scaring away the rest of the voters,” Rynard said.

Democratic consultant Tracy Sefl, who hails from Iowa, said Warren — who spent the first five months of her campaign tailor-focused on the state — is gaining traction because her campaign fits well with what Iowa voters want. 

Warren stood at just 7 percent in a Monmouth poll in Iowa four months ago, which suggests her efforts in the state are paying off.

“Warren in many ways is a perfect Iowa candidate because she is so thorough and meticulous,” said Sefl, who served as a surrogate to Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates MORE’s 2016 campaign. “That meshes well with Iowa caucusgoers’ expectations.” 

The Biden and Warren match-up in Iowa shows the divide in the Democratic Party.

While voters in Iowa like Biden, others seemed intrigued by Warren's campaign including her string of policy proposals.

"She seems like she has a plan for everything," Laura Burkhalter, who works at an art museum in Des Moines, Iowa, said about Warren. "It's time we had a woman president."

"I like Joe Biden," Burkhalter continued, adding, "I think I would prefer someone younger."

Deb Lee-Johnson, who works for Apple in Indianola, Iowa, agreed saying she liked Biden as vice president. "I also think we need someone new. We need new blood."

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Democrats face choices between centrist and liberal candidates, and party members above all else may be trying to figure out which of their candidates would most likely defeat president Trump.

In 2008, after eight years of President George W. Bush, Iowa Democrats picked Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSaagar Enjeti rips Buttigieg for praising Obama after misquote Steyer scores endorsement from key New Hampshire activist Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism MORE, propelling his campaign forward over Hillary Clinton. Obama was the more progressive pick that year.

In 2016, they picked Clinton, who barely defeated Sanders, that year’s progressive insurgent.

“The Democrats in Iowa of course have always been divided,” said Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University. “There’s a history of supporting mainstream candidates but they were also very supportive of candidates like Barack Obama. 

“A progressive can do quite well and Bernie Sanders proved that when he almost beat Hillary Clinton,” Schmidt added.  

Biden’s support among Iowans has been steady since entering the race in April.

“I’ve been a little surprised at how resilient his polling has been,” Rynard said. “But people really like him. Part of the reason is there are a lot of older voters here who have known Joe Biden for most of their lives and they still have loyalty to him.”

Biden has been spending more time in the state, after some supporters initially grew worried that he wasn’t there enough.

This week — during a four-day swing through Iowa — he delivered a blistering speech criticizing Trump for giving life to white supremacists.

He also spent time at the Iowa State Fair, where he delivered remarks at the Des Moines Register Soapbox and later attended a town hall with the Asian and Latino coalition.

He currently has the biggest operation on the ground with 75 staffers in 10 offices across the state. Sixty of those staffers are field organizers. The operation is expected to more than double by the time the Iowa caucuses roll around.  

Warren, who is in the middle of her 10th trip to Iowa, is also in the middle of a four-day jaunt through the state. Aides say she is ascending in the polls because of her slow and steady approach, where she has gotten to know Iowans through thousands of “mini-interactions” in dozens of stops. 

“She oversaturated the state early on,” Rynard said. “She locked in lots of local activist support in those months.” 

Strategists say she is also narrowing Biden’s lead in the state because she is taking away support from Sanders.

“It’s a whole different race this time around. Last time, Bernie was the only option, this time some people may have found a better progressive candidate,” one Democratic strategist said. “Biden has to be a little worried about it.” 

Reid Wilson contributed to this report.