- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2019

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack on Monday said he didn’t think Joseph R. Biden’s skipping a trip to Iowa over the weekend is going to hurt him and that the vice president already has connections in the state that other Democratic contenders might not have built up yet.

“I think Vice President Biden now has the stage pretty much to himself on Tuesday and Wednesday, and especially the opportunity for him to sort of counter-balance the president’s visit to Iowa puts him in a position where it reinforces the notion that he’s the best candidate, at least in his view and his campaign’s view, to take on President Trump,” Mr. Vilsack said on CNN.

The president is scheduled to be in Iowa on Tuesday, which overlaps with Mr. Biden’s trip to the state this week.

“So I don’t think it was necessarily a mistake on the part of the Biden campaign or an unfortunate circumstance,” said Mr. Vilsack, who served as President Barack Obama’s agriculture secretary. “I think the reality is he may have benefited by not being on the stage.”

Nineteen candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination delivered rapid-fire pitches at a Democratic party event on Sunday in Cedar Rapids. But Mr. Biden, who has been keeping a comparatively light public campaigning schedule, instead opted to attend his granddaughter’s high school graduation over the weekend.

Mr. Vilsack did say Iowans are going to expect Mr. Biden to work for the nomination, but that the former vice president is in a different position than most candidates who might be introducing themselves to the states’ residents for the first time.

“You have to be there. You have to spend time,” the former governor said. “You have to basically create the connection, but the reality is the vice president’s been connected to our state for a number of years and he has a lot of deep relationships with people. So in that sense, he’s a little bit different than the other candidates who are coming for the first time to the state.”

Mr. Vilsack said Sen. Bernard Sanders, who nearly won Iowa in 2016, also has the same kind of contact with the state.

“At the end of the day, the vice president has got to lay out his vision for the country and Iowans are going to decide whether that’s compelling, and they’re also going to decide who in all of these 23 candidates is the best person to take on President Trump, because that I think, is the central issue. People want to make sure that Democrats win this election,” he said.

Mr. Biden led the Democratic field with support from 24 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers, according to a CNN/Des Moines Register poll released over the weekend. Mr. Sanders of Vermont was in second place at 16 percent.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was close behind, at 15 percent, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was next at 14 percent.

To Mr. Vilsack’s point, roughly two-thirds of respondents said it’s more important that the Iowa winner have a strong chance of beating Mr. Trump, compared to about one-third who said it’s more important that the winner share their position on major issues.

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