It’s been nearly 9 months since Joe Biden’s set foot in Iowa.
When he was last in the Hawkeye State, the former vice president’s White House bid was sputtering, after being trounced in the Iowa caucuses, the kickoff contest in road to the presidential nomination
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On Friday he returned as the Democratic presidential nominee to a state that’s reeling from the coronavirus pandemic – and a battleground that’s very much up for grabs in the general election.
At a socially distanced drive-in car rally at the Iowa State Fair Grounds in Des Moines, Biden took aim at President Trump’s efforts to combat the coronavirus, claiming that Trump is “waving the white flag” and has “surrendered to the virus.”
Iowa’s suffered from one of the nation’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, and on Friday it reported a record number of cases and hospitalizations, one of several states where the virus that’s taken the lives of nearly 230,000 Americans has surged in recent weeks.
“Here at the fairground, the Iowa state fair cancelled for the first time since World War Two. And Donald Trump has given up,” Biden charged.
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And pointing to China, where the pandemic originated, the former vice president pledged “I’ll do what he (Trump) has been unable to do…I’m going to hold China accountable, which he hasn’t done from the pandemic on.”
The Trump re-election campaign’s Matt Wolking, firing back, argued on Twitter that “Biden’s stump speech is so ridiculously deceitful. Just one false quotation and rumor after another.”
Iowa’s long been a competitive state in presidential elections. President Barack Obama carried the state by six points in the 2012 election, but Trump flipped the Hawkeye State four years ago, topping 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by nine points, even though the final surveys suggested a much closer margin.
It wasn’t on the battleground radar a year ago. But Iowa’s very much in the spotlight now, with the latest public opinion surveys in the state showing a very close contest. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted over the past week indicates the president with a razor thin one-point edge in Iowa. Surveys from Monmouth University and the New York Times/Siena College conducted a week earlier both showed Biden with a 3-point advantage over Trump.
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Officials said that there were roughly 200 cars that took part in the drive-in rally, with an additional 100-125 people in an overflow area.
Biden was introduced Des Moines-native Ross Daniels, a health care activist with the Iowa Citizen Action Network who lost his 92-year-old father to COVID-19 in May.
The former vice president – who’s eldest son Beau died in 2015 and who’s first wife Neilia and 13- month old daughter Amy died in a car crash nearly 50 years ago, said “Ross, my heart goes out to you…..I know it’s hard, but you’ve been turning a loss into purpose, saving lives.”
Besides the battle for Iowa’s 6 electoral votes, there’s also an extremely competitive Senate race between Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.
“Theresa and I both lost our first spouses. We’ve both been single parents to young kids. We both found a way back from broken places,” Biden said. “She understands. She gets it.”
Iowa was the first stop in a day where Biden was scheduled to campaign in three battleground states. He stopped in neighboring Minnesota later in the afternoon and was headed to Wisconsin for an evening rally.