SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg had Iowa all to himself Thursday as most of his biggest rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination were stuck in Washington for the impeachment trial, foreshadowing the advantage he will have on the ground in the kickoff caucus state for the foreseeable future.
The split-screen was a glimpse of the weeks to come as Sens. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennett of Colorado are poised to become weekend warriors, jumping between doing their weekly jobs in Washington and courting voters in the early primary states.
“It is a disadvantage for them – especially right here at the end,” said Joann Hardy, chair of the Cerro Gordo County Iowa Democrats. “Pete does have an advantage. He can do all those face-to-face events and keep meeting people.”
While those fours lawmakers were sitting in the Senate awaiting the articles of impeachment from the House and for Chief Justice John Roberts to swear members in as jurors, Mr. Buttigieg was roaming around the northern and western part of Iowa, seeking to solidify his support in conservative-leaning areas backed President Trump in 2016.
“This is our opportunity to build our most inclusive coalition that we have seen in modern times with ideological, racial and economic diversity – and regional diversity,” Mr. Buttigieig said at a stop in Arnold Park.
“That is why I am spending time in different parts of this state and different parts of the country,” he said. “We have to recognize that without agreeing on everything, this is our chance to build together that strong American majority that wants to see a more decent White House.”
Back on Capitol Hill, the 2020 contenders were openly frustrated with their current predicament.
“I would rather be in Iowa today,” Mr. Sanders told reporters. “There’s a caucus there in two-and-a-half weeks. I’d rather be in New Hampshire and in Nevada and so forth.”
“But I swore a constitutional oath as a United States Senator to do my job and I’m here to do my job,” he said. “I think the people of the United States understand that.”
Ms. Warren, meanwhile, refused to entertain questions about being diverted from the campaign trail.
After being sworn in as a juror for the trial, Ms. Warren waved off a reporter who pursued her into the Senate Carriage, where she climbed into a waiting blue Ford Escape, which ushered here away.
Ms. Warren is slated to return to Iowa Friday for the beginning of multiple-day swing through the state.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden also plans to be here Friday and Saturday.
On Thursday, though, Mr. Buttigieg was on his own with just 19 days to go before the caucuses.
He kicked off the day with a town hall event in Algona and closed it out here in Sioux City, which Mr. Trump carried by a whopping 68% points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Ellen Snyder, a Buttigieg volunteer, said the 37-year-old’s message on faith and midwest style is resonating with voters, including disenchanted Republicans from rural and small towns who are giving him a good look.
“Some are dyed-in-the-wool Trumpers and they will never change, but I think there are others that feel the need for a change – that there is only so much Trumpism that anybody can deal with,” said Ellen Snyder, a campaign volunteer. “I think there are some that can be turned over to Democrats.”
There are signs his strategy is working.
His stops attracted a man in a Trump 2020 hat who showed up to ask a question about Mr. Buttigieg’s views on Social Security and a woman who said she voted for Mr. Trump, but plans to back Mr. Buttigieg if he is the Democratic presidential nominee.
Mr. Buttigieig told reporters at a local VFW Hall in Emmetsburg that he doesn’t have a lot in common with Mr. Trump, but said he is interested in speaking for the communities that the president “claims to speak for.”
“In fact I come from the kind of community that he claims to speak for and speak to,” he said. “It has been striking, especially as we speak to I think some of the voters who have maybe have been taking their time before they pay attention, but now they are, that they are not necessarily tribal partisans, they are taking each election on its own terms. and these are folks who may have voted for President Trump last time, but that doesn’t mean that they are committed to them,” Mr. Buttigieg said.
“They certainly are not wedded to the Republicans Party and if we can reach them, talk about the real issues that I think are affecting everyone, especially in rural and industrial communities, we can absolutely get those votes in the Democratic Party,” he said.
Polls show Mr. Buttigieg is running third in Iowa, just behind Mr. Biden and Mr. Sandes, and just ahead of Ms. Warren.
Mr. Buttigieg, though, still has some hurdles to overcome in these more conservative parts of the state, including those who like his message, but struggle with his sexuality as a gay man.
“I guess I am not sure what to think,” said Steve Hauschen, who came out to listen to Mr. Buttigieg at a local VFW Hall. “I am an old-fashioned farm boy and the day-and-age of men marrying men.”
“It is difficult,” he said.
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