Michael Bennet Keeps Focus On Iowa As Competitors Debate

Photo by Julie Fleming

In the middle of the night, at a gas station in rural Iowa, an employee recognized a little-known presidential candidate approaching the cash register.

“You’re Bennet,” the woman said.

The “Bennet” she recognized was Michael Bennet, a U.S. senator from Colorado and one of more than a dozen Democratic candidates vying for the White House.

In talking with Starting Line today, hours before the fourth presidential debate got underway in Columbus, Ohio, Bennet recalled the exchange he had Monday when driving from Des Moines to a town hall meeting in Mason City.

“She said, ‘It would be nice to have somebody calm in the White House again,'” Bennet recalled.

Bennet is all-in on the first-in-the-nation caucus state, hoping to do well enough here to gain momentum heading into other early-state primaries.

His campaign has spent more than $1 million on TV ads in the state, in an effort to boost his name ID before the Feb. 3 caucuses. He’s also built out his campaign staff here to reach out to voters personally.

“I’ve run into a lot of people that have said, ‘You’re the guy that was the school superintendent,'” Bennet said. “So, my sense is that people are watching. I think that at town halls, we’re seeing more people show up. And I think that’s probably a reflection of the television as well.”

Bennet did not meet the polling and fundraising thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee to be on the debate stage tonight. Instead, he participated in a town hall-style interview with WHO-TV and has met voters in counties that voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump in 2016.

He visited Clinton and Muscatine on Saturday and Mason City on Monday. In between, Bennet participated in the UFCW Presidential Forum in Altoona and held a town hall in West Des Moines.

“I think people were voting for Barack Obama in the hope that we could change the country, and I think they voted for Donald Trump out of frustration that led them to want to ‘blow the place up’ — is what they would say,” Bennet said. “The way I think we get them back is by saying to people who voted for Trump to blow the place up — congratulations, you achieved your objection, now what do we do for our kids and grandkids and what are we going to do for America’s place in the world?”

A key part of Bennet’s message is a health care agenda centered on “Medicare-X” — a public option plan meant to build on and expand the Affordable Care Act.

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“I think the fact that there are millions of Americans who make too much money to be on Medicaid but not enough money to buy private insurance comfortably, means that there’s a real solution to that, which is the public option,” said Bennet, of his proposal.

“If we go down the road of Medicare for All — which is not supported by a majority of Democrats, let alone anybody else in the country — we’ll fight a losing battle over the next 10 years for Medicare for All and we will not win the seats that we need to win to create universal health care coverage, to have a tax code that’s actually supporting working people instead of the wealthiest people in the country, and to be doing the urgent work that we need to be doing on climate change.”

So far, Bennet’s proposal has not translated to support in the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll, which shows Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a champion of Medicare for All, leading the field.

Bennet, however, is not deterred.

“Iowa is taking this process incredibly seriously, and I believe that what the caucus-goers are trying to figure out is who’s best suited to beat Donald Trump, and I don’t think they’re going to make that decision until the last month of this campaign,” he said. “That’s why I’ve invested my resources here, because I believe I am pursuing an agenda which is where most Iowans are, on the issues of economy to health care to climate to government reform.

“I think the fact that I’m the only candidate in the race who’s won two national elections in a swing state, means that the stuff that I’m campaigning on is not stuff I came up with to run a caucus process here or to run for president, but is stuff that I have believed over the course of the last 10 years [and] actually is an answer to: how do we begin to unify people in this country again?

“I think that’s going to have appeal.”


By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 10/15/19

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