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Democrats should make gains with suburban women, Harkin says

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ANKENY — Suburbs such as this Republican-leaning city just north of Des Moines are prime areas for Iowa Democrats to help presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said Sunday.

Harkin, who in 2014 retired after serving 30 years in the U.S. Senate, told Democratic campaign organizers that they should be able to chip away at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s support in suburbs like Ankeny, especially with women.

While Clinton has opened up a lead in most toss-up states across the country, polls in Iowa show a close race, most with Trump leading.

However, none of the polls published were in the field in Iowa after the release of a 2005 video on which Trump could be heard making lewd comments about using his celebrity status to grope women, and ensuing allegations of inappropriate contact made by multiple women.

Trump has apologized for the comments and denied the allegations.

A new Fox News national poll showed suburban women picking Clinton over Trump by 24 percentage points.

“I have to believe there isn’t one suburban woman in this area who can go in there with a clear conscience and vote for Donald Trump,” Harkin told the campaign workers.

Harkin said in an interview that he remains hopeful Iowa will swing Clinton’s way and expressed surprise that the state could go for Trump after twice going for Democrat Barack Obama.

“I’m still hopeful that my fellow Iowans will exercise good judgement as they did in the last two presidential elections,” Harkin said. “If Iowans didn’t go for Mitt Romney (in 2012), how could they go for Donald Trump? At least Mitt Romney was a decent, nice, moderate Republican. How could they possibly go for Donald Trump?”

The Trump campaign in Iowa said its support from women has increased since the 2005 video was reported.

“The Trump-Pence Iowa team is encouraged by the outpouring of support among Iowan women for Mr. Trump’s candidacy, specifically over the past week,” Eric Branstad, the state director for the Trump campaign in Iowa and Gov. Terry Branstad’s son, said in a statement.

Harkin said he won’t weigh in on whether his former longtime colleague and his successor, Republican U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, should disavow Trump’s candidacy.

But Harkin did say he hopes Iowa Republicans see that Trump is not a typical Republican.

“I wouldn’t make any comment one way or the other on (Grassley and Ernst’s support of Trump),” Harkin said. “I just hope that Republicans in Iowa — and a lot of them are my friends — will recognize that Donald Trump is not a Republican. I don’t know what he is. ... But he’s certainly not the kind of Republican I’ve known all my life.”

The national Republican Party said Clinton’s use of surrogates such as Harkin in Iowa show her campaign is struggling in the state.

“Unfortunately, their weekend appearances only highlight Hillary Clinton’s constant struggle to appeal to voters from the coveted Obama coalition who remain unenthusiastic about her candidacy,” party spokeswoman Lindsay Jancek said in a statement.

For all of The Gazette's Election 2016 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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