Winnable but not yet won: Why Joe Biden and Mike Pence are both headed to Iowa this week

Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register
·3 min read

DES MOINES – Republican Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden will campaign in Iowa this week, underscoring how competitive the state has become in the closing days of the 2020 presidential race.

Pence will hold a "Make America Great Again" rally at the Des Moines International Airport Thursday afternoon, roughly two weeks after President Donald Trump held a similar rally there.

Biden will travel to Iowa Friday, though further details were not yet available. According to his campaign, he plans to discuss "bringing Americans together to address the crises facing the country and win the battle for the soul of the nation." It will be his first in-person trip to Iowa during the general election. He last campaigned here ahead of Iowa's Democratic caucuses in February.

The pair of visits, as well as Trump's rally earlier this month, indicate that both campaigns see the state as winnable but not yet won.

A September Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll showed both candidates polling neck and neck at 47% to 47%. A Real Clear Politics rolling average of polls shows Biden leading by less than 1 percentage point: 47.2% to 46.4%.

At his October rally, Trump said he was "concerned" about polling that showed him with a relatively small lead in the state.

“Nobody's going to do for Iowa what I did for Iowa," he said.

Coronavirus looms

The Trump event drew several thousand attendees, prompting concern from public health experts who worried it could act as a "superspreader" event for the coronavirus.

Pence is unlikely to draw as large a crowd as the president did. However, some have questioned whether Pence should be maintaining his travel schedule after several of his aides, including his chief of staff, tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.

Pence's latest Iowa rally, on Thursday, is set to begin at 1:30 p.m., and doors will open at 11:30 a.m. The visit will be sandwiched between stops in Wisconsin, on Wednesday, and an evening visit to Nevada on Thursday.

The Biden campaign has not yet said how his event would be structured, though he criticized Trump's October rally. He said that visit was an effort to "distract" from the toll the pandemic has taken on Iowans.

Coronavirus case numbers in Iowa continue to climb. At 10 a.m. Monday, the state was reporting 116,452 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,636 COVID-19-related deaths. The state is seeing record hospitalization numbers related to the virus.

Though Biden has not appeared in Iowa in person since this year's caucuses, he and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, have recorded remarks for several virtual events and fundraisers for Iowa Democrats. The campaign has also dispatched Biden's wife, Jill Biden, and Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff, here on its behalf.

As of Monday, 751,386 Iowans have voted early — choosing either to mail an absentee ballot, drop one in a secure dropbox or vote early in person at a county election office. With a week still to go before Election Day, that substantially outpaces the 653,438 early votes that were cast in the entire 2016 general election.

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Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at bpfann@dmreg.com or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Biden, Pence both head to Iowa, underscoring battleground status