ICYMI: Joe Biden’s visit: Pep Rally or Rescue mission?

Former Vice President Joe Biden is set to visit Iowa today to stump for fellow tax-hiking Democrats Fred Hubbell and Abby Finkenauer. But is Biden’s visit a rallying cry, or a rescue mission? Here’s what Team Biden said in September: Biden would be “conspicuously absent” in Iowa this fall because he “would bring more attention on his political future than the races in question.”

So why is Biden now spending time rallying his base in Cedar Rapids? Given Hubbell’s failing message on taxes and Finkenauer’s slumping campaign, all indications are that Biden’s last-minute call up is a rescue mission for candidates underperforming in the Cedar Rapids media market. Regardless of what last ditch attempts Democrats make or how much they spend to distort the record, the contrast is clear: Republicans are running on a winning message, and Democrats are left to drum up their base with Joe Biden because they can’t afford to look Iowans in the eye and convince them of a losing message amid a growing economy and tax cuts.

Don’t forget: these are two candidates who have stayed away from major surrogate visits until now. Hubbell skipped out on Tom Steyer’s impeachment town hall and pulled out of an event with Michael Avenatti, and Finkenauer ducked Pelosi’s visit to Iowa. So if it’s not a rescue mission, why the shift in strategy?

Cedar Rapids Gazette
“Biden Cedar Rapids visit – pep rally or rescue mission?”
James Lynch
Sunday, October 28, 2018

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Democratic challengers Fred Hubbell and Rep. Abby Finkenauer are downplaying suggestions they need help from former Vice President Joe Biden to get their campaigns cross the Election Day finish line.

Republicans suggest Biden’s visit signals Democratic nervousness about candidates who once looked like they had comfortable leads. They point to Biden’s travel schedule that takes him to election battlegrounds in Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin this week.

“Joe Biden’s visit a week before Election Day isn’t a victory lap for Democrats — it’s a rescue mission because Fred Hubbell and Abby Finkenauer’s message of raising taxes isn’t resonating with Iowans,” Jesse Dougherty of the Republican Party of Iowa said. “Even after outspending Republicans in nearly every race, Democrats haven’t been able to break away, and now they need Joe Biden to step in to save their losing message.”

Republicans say adding Iowa to Biden’s itinerary means Iowa Democratic candidates aren’t creating a blue wave on their own.

“With multiple polls showing a substantial jump from nearly 15 points behind to up to as much as 4 points ahead, it is clear the 1st District is not connecting with Abby’s extreme positions … and last-ditch efforts are underway to salvage her campaign,” Blum spokeswoman Alexah Rogge said.

They also point out Biden’s visit is something of an about-face. Earlier in the campaign, his aides said Biden planned to avoid stumping for candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire because that would bring more attention to his possible 2020 ambition than to candidates on the ballot this year. Iowa and New Hampshire, of course, host the first caucuses and primary of the presidential nominating process.

It’s unclear how much effect political “stars” have on voters. Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer says campaign surrogates such as Trump and Biden provide “one more reason for people to give thought to their candidate.”

“Are they going to say something that is going to convince somebody who isn’t sitting on the fence?” she said on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.” “That’s hard to say. But if what they’re doing is convincing them to go and get somebody else to come vote with you, then it’s more the messaging that becomes important than the messenger probably.”

Despite what public polls say about the races, Selzer said “you have to think their internal polls are driving that” decision to bring in surrogates.

People familiar with the race for governor have said for months it is close, with the lead seesawing between Hubbell and Reynolds.

In Iowa’s 1st District, Finkenauer has led in polls, including a 15-point margin in a New York Times/Sienna College poll last month. Selzer hasn’t done polling in the 1st District, but suggested that polling was finished “perhaps a little too soon.”

Since then, however, polling done for the Blum campaign and for the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had a private fundraiser in Cedar Rapids for Blum, show the race as close. That poll showed a statistical dead heat, with Finkenauer at 44 percent and Blum at 43 percent, with 8 percent of voters undecided.

Read the full article here.