ELECTION 2020

Biden's path to presidency didn't begin well in Iowa

Biden finished fourth in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses

FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about
FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to lead a nation gripped by historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.

But his start in the presidential race began in Iowa, and it wasn’t a sure path to the White House.

Biden made a discouraging start when he finished fourth in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. He began his Iowa campaign later than other candidates, but pushed hard as he neared the Feb. 3 caucuses.

On caucus night, he won the support of 23,605 caucus participants, well short of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 45,652. Sanders was edged out by former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had fewer votes, but won one-tenth of a percent more state delegate equivalents in the Iowa Democratic Party’s complicated caucus balloting mathematics.

After the caucuses, Biden did not campaign in Iowa — in-person — until four days before the election. He and running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris limited in-person campaigning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Surrogates for the Democratic ticket did some in-person campaigning.

Unlike President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the Democratic ticket and its surrogates made few in-person appearances, opting for virtual campaign events.

Although polls showed a competitive race in Iowa — the Real Clear Politics polling average had Biden leading by 2.3 percentage points — voters gave Trump an unambiguous win. Unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State show Trump carrying Iowa and its six Electoral College votes by an 8 percentage point margin 53 percent to 45 percent.

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His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed the processing of some ballots. Biden crossed 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.

Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.

Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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