DES MOINES, IOWA (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates have roared back into Iowa touting fresh endorsements, critiquing their rivals and predicting victories in the caucuses that will soon launch the process of deciding who will challenge United States (US) President Donald Trump. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Saturday she was “delighted” to pick up a coveted endorsement from The Des Moines Register. The state’s largest newspaper called the Massachusetts Democrat “the best leader for these times” and said she “is not the radical some perceive her to be”. But Warren’s progressive rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, predicted victory in Iowa and campaigned alongside New York 14th District Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most prominent leaders on the left.
Joe Biden, meanwhile, appeared for the first time alongside Iowan Representative Cindy Axne who is the latest in a growing list of local politicians backing the former Vice President’s candidacy. And Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, sought to position himself a Washington outsider above the partisan fray.
There’s no clear front-runner despite the fact that many candidates have now spent more than a year courting Iowans. A New York Times/Siena College poll released on Saturday showed Sanders with a slight — but not commanding — edge in Iowa. But several polls show Biden, Buttigieg and Warren remain among the front-runners.
Still, Sanders returned to Iowa exuding a sense of confidence. Hundreds of supporters filled the municipal auditorium in Ames and additional voters crowded an overflow room.
Earlier in the night, he told voters in Marshalltown that he had an “excellent chance to win here in Iowa” and argued that his is the only campaign that can weave broad support from voters.
Polls suggest Biden also has a substantial appeal among Democratic voters, especially African Americans. While he has been critical of Sanders in the past, he kept his focus instead on the threat of four more years of Trump in the White House.
“I don’t believe we are the dark, angry nation that Donald Trump tweets about at night,” he told a large crowd in Ankeny. “We are so much better than Donald Trump.”
Biden scored the endorsement of the Sioux City Journal, which called him “the candidate best positioned to give Americans a competitive head-to-head matchup with President Trump” and said he would be best at attracting support from “independents and disgruntled Republicans”.
Compared to Biden, Buttigieg was more dire in his reaction to the prospect of Sanders gaining strength in the Democratic contest. Hours after The New York Times/Siena College poll was released, his campaign sent an email to supporters with the subject line: “Bernie Sanders could be the nominee.”
“We need a nominee who can galvanize our country,” the email said. “The Trump presidency will end one way or another, and when it does we need a president who can rally this country around a vision for the next generation. We know that candidate is Pete.”