Government

Biden Cedar Rapids visit - pep rally or rescue mission?

Former Vice President Joe Biden gives a speech to a packed gymnasium while Florida Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, left, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson looks on during the Florida Democratic Party rally held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)
Former Vice President Joe Biden gives a speech to a packed gymnasium while Florida Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, left, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson looks on during the Florida Democratic Party rally held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Democrats say Joe Biden’s late October campaign visit will help them maintain their momentum across the Election Day finish line, but Republicans are calling the former vice president’s campaign stop in Cedar Rapids a “rescue mission.”

“He’s very appealing. He’s very popular in Iowa. He’ll help get people energized,” Fred Hubbell, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said this weekend during a campaign stop in Iowa City. Polling has shown him with a slight lead over GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“I think a lot of them are” enthusiastic and energized, Hubbell said about his supporters, “but at the same time we need to keep encouraging people to knock doors, to make phone calls. So the more energy, the more enthusiasm the better chance not only they, but their friends and relatives will vote.”

Likewise, Iowa 1st District Democratic challenger State Rep. Abby Finkenauer, is “proud to be joined by former Vice President Joe Biden, a stalwart champion for the middle class, as she makes her closing argument to Iowans in the final week of the campaign,” according to her spokeswoman Kate Waters.

Besides, Finkenauer said at a rally in Waterloo Saturday, Biden has “always been interested in making sure everything is going well.” She was a volunteer coordinator for his 2008 Iowa precinct caucus campaign.

“As this race was closing down the last couple of weeks here we were happy to have him come in,” Finkenauer said. “We’re excited to see him.”

However, Republicans suggest Biden’s visit signals Democratic nervousness about candidates who once looked like they had comfortable leads. They point to Biden’s travel schedule that takes him to election battlegrounds in Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin this week.

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“Joe Biden’s visit a week before Election Day isn’t a victory lap for Democrats — it’s a rescue mission because Fred Hubbell and Abby Finkenauer’s message of raising taxes isn’t resonating with Iowans,” Jesse Dougherty of the Republican Party of Iowa said. “Even after outspending Republicans in nearly every race, Democrats haven’t been able to break away and now they need Joe Biden to step in to save their losing message.”

Biden, 75, who hasn’t ruled out a third presidential bid in 2020, will headline the rally at Veterans Memorial Building, 50 2nd Ave. Bridge. Doors open at 6 p.m. The closest parking ramp is at the corner of First Street SE and Second Avenue. Others are available within walking distance. To RSVP, go to https://events.mobilizeamerica.io/friends-of-joe-biden/

Republicans say adding Iowa to Biden’s itinerary means Iowa Democratic candidates aren’t creating a blue wave on their own.

“With multiple polls showing a substantial jump from nearly 15 points behind to up to as much as four points ahead, it is clear the first district is not connecting with Abby’s extreme positions … and last ditch efforts are underway to salvage her campaign,” Blum spokeswoman Alexah Rogge said, referring to polls done for either the Blum campaign or allies.

They also point out Biden’s visit is something of an about-face, Earlier in the campaign, his aides said Biden planned to avoid stumping for candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire because that would bring more attention to his possible 2020 ambition than to candidates on the ballot this year. Iowa and New Hampshire, of course, host the first caucus and primary of the presidential nominee selection process.

Of course, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both been to Iowa to campaign for party members on the ballot, including Blum and Reynolds.

Blum, Water pointed out, “had his buddy Paul Ryan fly in to prop up his listless campaign with a fundraiser that he kept secret.”

It’s unclear how much impact political “stars” have on voters. Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer says campaign surrogates like the president and Biden provide “one more reason for people to give thought to their candidate.”

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“Are they going to say something that is going to convince somebody who isn’t sitting on the fence?” she said on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press. “That’s hard to say. But if what they’re doing is convincing them to go and get somebody else to come vote with you then it’s more the messaging that becomes important than the messenger probably.”

Despite what public polls say about the races, Selzer said “you have to think their internal polls are driving that” decision to bring in surrogates.

People familiar with the race for governor have said for months it is close with the lead seesawing between Hubbell and Reynolds.

In Iowa’s 1st District, Finkenauer has led in polls, including a 15-point margin in a New York Times/Sienna College poll last month. Selzer hasn’t done polling in the 1st District, but suggested that polling was finished “perhaps a little too soon.” The Times started another round of polling Sunday.

Since then, however, polling done for the Blum campaign and for the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is tied to Speaker Ryan, who had a private fundraiser in Cedar Rapids for Blum, show the race as close. That poll showed a statistical dead heat with Finkenauer at 44 percent and Blum at 43 percent with 8 percent of voter undecided.

The poll by CLF showed Blum leading by 4 percentage points. Although the CLF has poured more than $100 million into television and digital advertising in Iowa this year, Blum’s campaign said it has been outspent six-to-one by Finkenauer and her allies.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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