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Biden faces challenge from Warren in Iowa

Biden faces challenge from Warren in Iowa
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE has had a steady lead in Iowa polls, but Democratic strategists say Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCan Biden find a third way between Trumpism and Obama-era globalism? Left seeks to influence Biden picks while signaling unity Schwarzenegger says he would 'absolutely' help Biden administration 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 SandersOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Sanders says he can't support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current form Progressives push for direct payments to be included in COVID-19 relief deal 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 HarrisBiden officially clinches Electoral College votes with California certification Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Trump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs 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 ClintonHillary and Chelsea Clinton to host series based on their book 'Gutsy Women' Democrats see spike in turnout among Asian American, Pacific Islander voters Biden officially announces ex-Obama official Brian Deese as top economic adviser 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 ObamaSmearing presidential election will turn off young voters and undermine democracy 'Black Panther' star criticized for sharing video questioning COVID-19 vaccine Black voters: Low propensity, or low priority? 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.