Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.) will be in Iowa over the next few days to campaign for Democratic candidates, giving them a chance to distinguish themselves in front of voters in a state that will hold the first-in-the-nation caucuses in February 2020.
The two high-profile senators will be in the Hawkeye State to campaign for Democrats running for congressional seats and state offices in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. While neither lawmaker has announced they will run for president, the visits put them in front of voters who will play a crucial role in shaping the 2020 primaries.
“This is the time when you have to begin to come to Iowa,” said Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt, adding that candidates “have to capture a good number of Democrats who will be attending the caucuses.”
Having a strong organization is important to succeed in the caucuses, he said, since candidates need people to show up and support them in every precinct.
The visits by Sanders and Harris are part of broader efforts to campaign for Democrats in the midterms. Iowa is part of a nine-state tour for Sanders, and Harris will be there after stops in South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Sanders is scheduled to be in Iowa on Saturday and Sunday. He will campaign for former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten, who is running against GOP Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingGOP lawmakers say Steve King’s loss could help them in November The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden on the cusp of formally grasping the Democratic nomination The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from the protests MORE, a prominent immigration hardliner, in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. The race is rated “likely Republican” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Sanders will attend several events with Scholten: rallies in Sioux City and Ames; a town hall focused on Social Security; and a homecoming parade at Iowa State University. The rally in Ames will also include Deidre DeJear, who is running for Iowa secretary of state and is the first black major-party nominee for a statewide office in Iowa.
Harris is scheduled to visit on Monday and Tuesday, participating in early voting rallies in various locations in the state, including the Des Moines area and Cedar Rapids.
A number of those events will be held on college campuses, including a rally at Des Moines Area Community College with congressional candidate Cindy Axne and a couple of candidates for state legislature. Axne, a small-business owner, is looking to unseat GOP Rep. David YoungDavid Edmund YoungFormer Rep. David Young wins GOP primary in bid for old House seat Trump lends support to swing district Republicans Former ‘Apprentice’ contestant ranks Trump next to Mother Teresa on women’s issues MORE in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District — a race rated a “toss-up” by Cook.
Iowa could be a key state in Democrats’ quest to take control of the House. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win the majority, and there are three GOP-held congressional districts in Iowa that could flip. In addition to the races involving Scholten and Axne, state lawmaker Abby Finkenauer is running against Rep. Rod Blum (R) in the 1st Congressional District in a race Cook rates as “lean Democratic.”
There are also state-level races that Democrats are hoping to win, including DeJear’s and the gubernatorial one.
DeJear spokeswoman Cynthia Sebian-Lander said it’s important to get students excited about the upcoming election and that it helps to have big names help with the campaigning.
“Lots of early voting locations are going to be open next week, so it’s a great time to visit,” Sebian-Lander said.
The midterm campaign trips also give possible presidential candidates the chance to test out messages and connect with people who might help their eventual campaigns.
Sanders has experience campaigning in Iowa. He narrowly lost the 2016 Iowa Democratic caucuses to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE.
Harris, however, isn’t very well known in the state. This will be her first visit to Iowa since the 2008 presidential cycle, when she campaigned for then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden Valerie Jarrett: ‘Democracy depends upon having law enforcement’ MORE during her tenure as San Francisco district attorney.
Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, said Harris’s visit gives her an opportunity to introduce herself to Iowa voters.
“There’s a draw and anticipation of meeting her for the first time,” he said. The Polk County Democrats are hosting an event with Harris and DeJear on Monday, and Bagniewski estimated that about 500 people will attend, more than initially expected.
Prominent Republicans have also been showing up in Iowa in advance of the Nov. 6 midterm elections. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE visited earlier this month, and Vice President Pence made the trip on Friday.
Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.), who’s retiring from Congress in early January, will be in Iowa on Tuesday to campaign for Young. He’s also expected to campaign for Blum before the midterms.
Harris and Sanders are not the only possible Democratic presidential candidates making stops in Iowa this month.
Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyQAnon believer advances to Georgia House runoff race Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (D-Ore.), as well as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), have made visits to the state in recent days and weeks, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has been spending part of this weekend in the state.
Hickenlooper spoke on Friday at the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines and headlined meet-and-greet events to support state legislature candidates. He is participating in canvas kickoff events Saturday with the Iowa Democratic Coordinated Campaign, said Brad Komar, executive director for Hickenlooper’s leadership PAC.
Having Sanders, Harris and Hickenlooper in the state over the course of a few days is just a taste of what’s in store between now and the Feb. 3, 2020, caucuses.
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“It’s going to be busy, for sure,” Bagniewski said.