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Joe Biden has landed a high-profile endorsement for his presidential bid as Rep. Abby Finkenauer becomes the first member of the Iowa congressional delegation to take sides in the Democratic nominating contest.
Finkenauer, a first-term House member from a district Donald Trump won in 2016, will campaign with Biden this weekend, with less than four weeks to go before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses that lead off Democrats' 2020 voting.
The congresswoman said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of Thursday's announcement that the former vice president's experience, his proposals on infrastructure and other economic matters and his appeal to a wide range of voters make him the ideal Democrat to take on Trump.
“We need somebody at the top who can lead from the White House, someone who’s willing to unite not just Democrats but the country,” Finkenauer said. “There are days where I swear Democrats and Republicans are speaking different languages, and there’s no translator. ... (Biden) is the translator.”
At 31, Finkenauer also gives the 77-year-old Biden a potential bridge to younger Democrats, a group that has proved to be more skeptical of his candidacy than older voters.
The congresswoman is scheduled to appear alongside Biden in at least eight cities and towns as part of a 10-county, five-day Iowa tour that begins Thursday. It won't be their first pairing; Finkenauer was among the dozens of Democratic House candidates Biden campaigned for ahead of the 2018 midterms.
Her potential influence, even as a freshman, was on display in November, when nine presidential candidates visited her northeastern Iowa district for a forum she co-sponsored with labor groups. That slate included the four candidates — Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — who polls suggest are the top contenders in Iowa.
Finkenauer did not frame her support for Biden as a rejection of his rivals, saying she's "not going to speak to what’s going to win votes and what’s not.” Yet her explanation aligns with Biden's argument that a center-left approach, coupled with his record as a senator and vice president, makes him Democrats' best option in a general election.
Finkenauer specifically cited Biden’s proposals for new infrastructure spending and his role in the 2010 health care overhaul becoming law, saying Biden connects the “big picture” to “what it means around kitchen tables across the country."
Biden and Finkenauer share similar electoral strategies, as well.
A small-town Iowa native, Finkenauer defeated a Republican incumbent in 2018 emphasizing her family’s deep ties to the district and establishing cultural connections with voters who've grown increasingly skeptical of Democrats. At the same time, she carved out a policy profile that, like Biden's, reflects Democrats' leftward evolution but with a more cautious agenda than the progressive left fueling Warren and Sanders. Finkenauer and Biden are staunch allies of organized labor. Finkenauer campaigned heavily on paid family leave and infrastructure improvements. Like Biden, she supports expanding the 2010 health care law but stops short of single-payer, all-government insurance like what Sanders and Warren support. She also campaigns aggressively in her district’s rural areas and small towns, venues like those that have dominated Biden’s itinerary in his recent rips to Iowa.
“It goes back to the uniting factor,” Finkenauer said of her endorsement. “You can’t divide rural America and our cities. They do require different attention and different plans, but if rural America is forgotten, then our cities are also hurt, and vice versa. He’s understood that from the beginning.”
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