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Top 2020 Democrats missing in Iowa but working backchannel

FILE - In this June 29, 2018, file photo, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the media in Cincinnati. Dick Harpootlian, a longtime fixture in South Carolina’s Democratic political circles announced Wednesday, Aug. 1, that he’s getting a campaign boost from one of the party’s top dogs. In an email to supporters, Harpootlian said that he is being supported by Biden in his special election quest for a state Senate seat in the Columbia area. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

For now, top-tier prospective Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are largely steering clear of Iowa.

Posted: Aug 6, 2018 6:29 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa State Fair opens this week, complete with its signature deep-fried Oreos and prize hog judging. Country star Reba McEntire will be on the grandstand, but another type of celebrity will be missing: marquee names eyeing the White House.

The fair's time-honored mix of late-summer family fun and high-wattage political pageantry will instead feature the Democratic backbench of presidential hopefuls, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. The visit generating the most buzz this week is Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for the adult-film actress suing Trump who is attending the state Democratic Party's annual summer fundraiser.

For now, top-tier prospective Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are largely steering clear of Iowa.

The Democratic Party's top stars have their reasons. Several say they are focused on ensuring the party is successful in regaining control of at least one chamber of Congress in the midterm elections. Some will be on the ballot themselves in November so they must lock down their own victory before being so bold as to go to Iowa.

Still, their absence surprises veteran Democratic activists and stokes the perennial worry about the future of the state's early status.

The anxiety isn't entirely misplaced. The case for giving the overwhelming white, rural state a prized role in picking the Democratic nominee has become more complicated as the party's base becomes less white and rural. Meanwhile, other states have been challenging it on influence and candidate appeal. For aspiring politicians, the place to make an impact this cycle is Georgia, which has a hot governor's race and a sizable African-American population.

The quiet has been observed by Iowans with typical understatement.

"It's not as busy as I would have expected it to be," said former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat.

"I've never seen us three months away from the midterms where we haven't had people like that here," said Sue Dvorsky, a longtime Democratic activist in Democrat-heavy Iowa City and a former state party chairwoman.

The positioning that is happening in Iowa ahead of 2020 is largely playing out in private.

Warren has spoken with Vilsack by phone several times this year, the former governor said. He has also fielded regular calls from other 2020 presidential prospects.

Biden has kept in touch with Dubuque-area Democrats, notably ahead of his June endorsement of a congressional candidate.

Mark Smith, Democratic leader in the Iowa House of Representatives, said he discussed statehouse campaign contributions with Booker last month at a New Jersey diner.

Harris offered Iowa secretary of state candidate Deirdre DeJear some in-person encouragement at an event in Los Angeles in April, DeJear said.

Sanders visited Iowa in February as a favor to his former caucus campaign director Pete D'Alessandro, who lost a June primary for a Des Moines-area House seat. He has been less guarded than his potential 2020 rivals, arguing amid his travels that the party needs to broaden its appeal everywhere.

Most others have played down any Iowa contact, except in pursuit of midterm goals.

Harris "has been very clear that her top political priority this cycle is to elect and protect more Democrats in the Senate," said her spokeswoman, Lily Adams. "She has also made sure to put her support behind candidates who share her values and to make statehouses look more like the population of this country."

Still, some potential candidates are dipping their toes in other early voting states. In June, Warren headlined the state Democratic Party convention in Nevada, which has the cover of a close Senate race this year. Biden endorsed his friend, South Carolina lawyer Dick Harpootlian, for state House last week.

Previous presidential prospects have often set up at least skeleton Iowa organizations by this point, in part to sow goodwill with activists who can be crucial to victory in the caucuses.

Then-Vice President Al Gore began visiting Iowa more than a year ahead of the 1998 midterms to lay down a marker that kept all but New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley from challenging him in the 2000 caucuses.

At the same time, presumed Democratic powerhouse Hillary Clinton stayed away from Iowa during the 2006 midterm campaign while then-Sen. Evan Bayh and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, now a senator, tried to establish themselves early as viable challengers. They visited often in early 2006 and financed campaign staff for 2006 Iowa races.

That campaign produced the unexpected dynamic of two party superstars, as Barack Obama, then a freshman Illinois senator, decided late in 2006 to explore running for president. His rock-star reception at a September Democratic fundraiser in Iowa that year foretold the head-to-head clash of the two stars.

After losing the 2008 caucuses and the nomination to Obama, Clinton returned to Iowa in September 2014 and became the early target of Sanders, who would narrowly lose to Clinton in the 2016 caucuses and dog her throughout the primaries.

"It's hard to be first," Vilsack said. "You put yourself out there, and the analyzing and criticizing starts."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 452268

Reported Deaths: 6100
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin938131490
Ramsey40370746
Dakota33353349
Anoka31193366
Washington20363231
Stearns17995189
St. Louis13857245
Scott1209197
Wright11723106
Olmsted1068375
Sherburne825766
Carver700138
Clay655582
Rice618070
Kandiyohi556572
Blue Earth545933
Crow Wing487778
Otter Tail460967
Chisago456436
Benton422287
Winona393048
Douglas377266
Nobles373946
Mower370829
Goodhue352661
Polk330559
McLeod326747
Beltrami314048
Morrison313545
Lyon304138
Becker288039
Itasca286443
Isanti284242
Carlton282543
Steele278110
Pine269214
Freeborn251523
Todd232630
Nicollet227537
Brown216934
Mille Lacs214945
Le Sueur212816
Cass209424
Meeker200933
Waseca191916
Wabasha17343
Martin171426
Roseau166217
Hubbard150138
Redwood140827
Houston139714
Renville137940
Dodge13714
Chippewa132032
Cottonwood128418
Fillmore12576
Wadena120517
Rock111212
Aitkin109233
Sibley10917
Faribault108316
Watonwan10688
Pennington100716
Kanabec98818
Pipestone95923
Yellow Medicine94216
Murray9056
Jackson87110
Swift84318
Pope7435
Stevens7078
Marshall70315
Clearwater68714
Lake66015
Lac qui Parle65716
Wilkin6309
Koochiching60210
Lincoln4892
Big Stone4663
Unassigned43768
Grant4358
Norman4248
Mahnomen4147
Kittson37320
Red Lake3194
Traverse2583
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 309989

Reported Deaths: 4424
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46587464
Linn17979279
Scott15787171
Black Hawk14037243
Woodbury13093181
Johnson1224652
Dubuque11535159
Pottawattamie9111115
Dallas905972
Story877838
Webster471577
Cerro Gordo471472
Sioux459157
Clinton456167
Warren456139
Marshall429862
Buena Vista396130
Muscatine394978
Des Moines390043
Plymouth352470
Wapello348498
Jasper330159
Lee322632
Marion308152
Jones274250
Henry266131
Carroll258034
Bremer249348
Crawford233524
Boone222017
Washington222033
Benton212250
Mahaska197237
Jackson194331
Tama189959
Dickinson188329
Kossuth178544
Delaware175236
Clay171421
Wright166424
Fayette165024
Hamilton162030
Buchanan161624
Winneshiek159720
Harrison157962
Hardin156730
Cedar155419
Clayton153649
Butler150824
Page146315
Floyd140836
Cherokee139927
Mills138417
Lyon137333
Poweshiek134524
Hancock131424
Allamakee130230
Iowa127422
Calhoun12339
Madison123210
Grundy122128
Jefferson122025
Winnebago121529
Mitchell116637
Louisa115730
Cass114743
Chickasaw113512
Appanoose112040
Sac112015
Emmet111232
Union110723
Humboldt106419
Shelby104727
Guthrie104024
Franklin103218
Unassigned10050
Palo Alto91711
Montgomery88024
Keokuk86126
Howard85019
Monroe81919
Clarke8087
Pocahontas78111
Ida75830
Davis70021
Greene6977
Adair69520
Monona67118
Lucas66410
Osceola64611
Worth6154
Taylor5989
Fremont5246
Van Buren50115
Decatur4954
Ringgold44811
Audubon4208
Wayne41821
Adams2983
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