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In Iowa, Biden And Sanders Speak Out Against U.S. Killing Of Iran's Soleimani

Clay Masters
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a town hall at McKinley Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa on January 4, 2020.

Politicians around the country have been responding to President Donald Trump's order to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. This is also the case in Iowa, where the caucuses are now less than a month away.

Many of the Democrats were in the state this weekend, including two of the front runners: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

In Waterloo, Former Vice President Joe Biden spent time calling possible supporters to see if he could count on their support on February 3.

He held a flip phone to his right ear. 

"I'm good, I'm calling to see if you’d consider caucusing for me on February 3. I sure could use your help."

At each of his Saturday events, Iowa Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer introduced him.

She defeated a Republican incumbent in 2018, she's one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress, and she's also the only member of Iowa's congressional delegation who has endorsed a candidate.

Before the phone calls in Waterloo, Biden and Finkenauer spoke to a small crowd.

Toby Cole was there. He says he is leaning strongly towards Biden. 

"Vice President Biden has the best chance of unifying people. Pulling in independents, some disgruntled Republicans. I personally think he has the best shot at that," says Cole.

It is still a crowded field and Iowans have had the chance to see many of the candidates several times. The shift towards foreign policy comes in the final weeks ahead of the caucuses, which is also when many people likely to attend are making up their minds.

Part of Biden's pitch is that his time as vice president has prepared him to work with foreign leaders.

During a town hall in Des Moines Saturday night, Biden talked about President Trump's order to kill Soleimani.

While Biden says no one should weep over his death, the last thing the U.S. needs is another war in the Middle East.

"All this just reinforces the stakes of this election in my view. That's why it's so important to elect someone who's already ready on day one when they're elected to pick up the pieces of this disarray and immediately be commander in chief of our armed forces," Biden said.

It was a convincing argument for Peggy Magner, who saw Biden twice over the weekend. After seeing him speak at an elementary school cafeteria in the small town of Vinton, she told IPR she is probably going to caucus for him.

"I think he has the experience we need. I think what has happened over in the Middle East is just horrible. I think we need someone like Joe Biden to help us because I think he gets it and I'm not sure anybody else really does," Magner commented.

That argument likely will not persuade Jessie Rasmussen from Carroll. Rasmussen was part of a crowd of around 1,300 people who came to see Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Des Moines on New Year's Eve.

"I've been a supporter since 2015. I've met him a couple times," she said. "This is like my fifth rally I've been to."

Hillary Clinton just eked out a victory over Sanders here four years ago in the caucuses. Rasmussen says she likes Sanders' consistency and thinks he has a better pulse on America than Biden.

"Bernie's been fighting for the same things his entire life. Like the past forty years. He's been fighting for universal healthcare since the 70s. He's got the credibility and the integrity."

Sanders was also in the state over the weekend responding to the killing of Maj. Gen. Soleimani. He called it a dangerous escalation towards another disastrous war in the Middle East. 

At a rally in Dubuque on Saturday, Sanders reminded the crowd of his opposition to the Iraq war. 

"I believe the first course of action is for the congress to take immediate steps to restrain President Trump from plunging our nation into yet another endless war."

In the run-up to this year's Iowa contest, Sanders and Biden have remained at the top of polls here throughout last year.

A CBS poll out Sunday showed them in a three-way tie with former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was close behind, followed by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. However, things have been known to change dramatically at the last minute in Iowa.

One thing is likely - the Democrats will stack their judgment on foreign policy up against President Trump's as they make their closing arguments here.