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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - DES MOINES, United States — Donald Trump takes his re-election campaign roadshow to Iowa Thursday, aiming to steal the limelight from Democrats whose race to challenge the US president remains in a dead heat days before the first nomination vote.
As a dozen White House candidates make their final pitches before Iowa Democrats vote on Monday, Trump will swoop in to insist the eventual nominee has little chance of defeating him in the general election in November.
The incumbent will no doubt mock Democrats' struggle to identify a clear-cut challenger who embodies a unified vision for the party.
Far-left Senator Bernie Sanders, 78, and moderate ex-vice president Joe Biden, 77, are the Iowa frontrunners.
However, their divergent political views suggest Democrats remain undecided on which path — revolution or realism — the torchbearer should take as they battle to avoid Trump's re-election.
Trump, who jets in to snowy Des Moines Thursday evening for a Keep America Great rally, will hammer Democrats over their efforts to remove him via an ongoing Senate impeachment trial that has infuriated the Republican base.
He will also boast about a chugging US economy and highlight the signing of a sweeping new trade agreement including the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Some of Trump's faithful supporters reportedly were already in line a day ahead of the rally at Drake University.
The president will make a prior stop in the battleground state of Michigan, where he will visit a manufacturing plant in Warren to deliver remarks on the USMCA trade pact.
Monday's top-performing Democrats are sure to claim all-important momentum heading into the race's next chapters: New Hampshire on February 11 and Nevada on February 22.
With many Iowa voters still undecided, the Democratic race remains fluid, and campaigns were deploying thousands of volunteers to knock on Iowa doors in a bid to enlist support.
Winston Taylor, a 20-year-old from Minnesota, took a break from his university studies to cross the state line and do campaign work for Senator Amy Klobuchar.
"Right now these last five days until the caucus, it is all hands on deck, reaching out to as many people as humanly possible," he told AFP.
Several surveys this month show Biden and Sanders plus former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Elizabeth Warren all in the top tier and within striking distance in the heartland state.
But a Monmouth University survey released Wednesday shows Biden narrowly ahead here with 23 percent support, followed by Sanders with 21 percent.
Warren, 70, who like Sanders also promotes liberal policies including universal health care, was listed third with 16 percent.
Buttigieg, 38, who is running in the same centrist lane as Biden, was one point back, while pragmatist Klobuchar stood in fifth with 10 percent.
Complicating matters, Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar largely have been tied to Washington for Trump's impeachment trial, denying them crucial face time with fastidious Iowa voters.
Warren boasts the best ground game in Iowa and won the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, last week, but her campaign has failed to convert those advantages into greater support.
On Wednesday her surrogates, including her husband Bruce Mann and their golden retriever Bailey, mounted an 11th-hour campaign blitz without her in the cities of Waverly and Waterloo, seeking to win over undecided Iowa voters.
Biden meanwhile barnstormed the state on a "Soul of the Nation" bus tour that took him to Council Bluffs, where he accused Trump of seeking to malign him because he was "scared" of running against Biden.
"I think we'd all agree that character — the character of the nation — is on the ballot," Biden told a few hundred attendees.
"This is a president who went out there and colluded with a foreign power to try and smear me."
He was referring to a central part of the impeachment charges against Trump: that the US leader withheld military aid from Ukraine until its president committed to investigating Biden and his son Hunter.
Trump's defense team, and multiple Republicans, insist Hunter Biden's paid position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president amounted to a clear conflict of interest.
No evidence of Biden wrongdoing has emerged, but concern has simmered that the controversy could pinch Biden's campaign efforts down the line.— AFP
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