By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
DES MOINES — Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst stood on stage together Thursday, waving to supporters with the Iowa Senate and presidential races in a dead heat heading into Election Day.
“Four years ago you believed we could be strong again, you believed we could be prosperous again,” Pence told a crowd of roughly 200 people gathered at the Des Moines airport on a cool and windy afternoon. “Iowa, you said ‘yes’ to Donald Trump in 2016, and I know that Iowa is going to say ‘yes’ to four more years of Donald Trump in 2020.”
Trump carried Iowa by almost 10 percentage points in 2016, with polls showing he and Pence in a close race with Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Nationally, Trump and Pence trail in polling in swing states — like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that likely will determine Tuesday’s election outcome.
“Come November 3, my fellow Americans, I need you to show one more time that Iowa is Trump country.”
Ernst spoke briefly while introducing Pence.
“We can take the path of prosperity, economic freedom and opportunity. Or we can go down the separate road of pitfalls the radical left wants to see us on,” Ernst said, warning of Democrats’ stances on abortion, environmental regulations, gun safety and ethanol. “Folks, this is not the road we want to go down. … This is the radical left that we have to stop.”
Ernst is facing a strong challenge to her re-election from Democrat and political newcomer Theresa Greenfield. Most polling has showed the Ernst-Greenfield race as a virtual tossup, even though Ernst won her first election, an open-seat race in 2014, by more than 8 percentage points.
Pence praised Ernst multiple times in his remarks.
“She has been an incredible ally of President Trump and the MAGA (Make America Great Again) agenda,” Pence said of Ernst.
Democrats criticized the Trump-Pence campaign for holding another rally event in Iowa, which is experiencing a steep climb in COVID-19 numbers. The rate of COVID-related deaths has surged a second time and nearly matched its first peak, and COVID-related hospitalization numbers are at record levels and climbing.
The national Democratic Party launched digital display ads to coincide with the Pence event.
“Nothing Pence will say today changes the fact that Iowans are sick and tired of his broken promises and incompetence that is threatening their lives and livelihoods,” Tom Perez, chairman of the national Democratic Party, said in a statement. “And that’s why Iowans are holding Trump and Pence accountable by making their plan to participate in this election and voting them out of office.”
The Biden campaign in a statement also highlighted the administration’s pandemic response.
Biden is scheduled to campaign in Des Moines on Friday with a drive-in style event. It will be the first time Biden has visited Iowa during the general election campaign, though he was in the state often in the run-up to the February Iowa caucuses.
“Look no further for evidence of Donald Trump’s failed presidency than the devastation across Iowa. Eight months into this pandemic, more than 120,000 Iowans have been infected with the virus and over 1,680 have lost their lives,” Biden campaign deputy manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield said in a statement. “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris … have a plan to stop the virus and to build our economy back better for working people _ not the wealthy and well-connected. That’s the leadership Iowa deserves.”
Pence addressed the pandemic, telling the crowd that Trump suspended all travel from China, although the president only restricted some travel from China. And Pence touted the administration’s efforts to get protective equipment to health care workers.
Pence also suggested that, by the end of the year, a COVID-19 vaccine could be available and that the federal government could begin the distribution of “millions of doses.”
“We’re going to meet this moment with American compassion and ingenuity. We’re going to distribute the vaccine and defeat the virus, and bring America back bigger and better than before,” Pence said.
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During his 40 minutes of remarks, Pence boasted the administration has bolstered the U.S. military; touted a U.S. economy that grew by 33 percent during the third quarter in rebounding from the pandemic; pledged support to Iowa farmers and noted the Iowa Corn Growers Association on Thursday made Trump and Pence honorary members; boasted the administration’s role in the creation of a new trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico; and highlighted the more than 200 judges confirmed to federal courts, including three U.S. Supreme Court justices.
“We’ve made good progress in our first three years,” Pence said.
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