Biden picks up another high profile endorsement in Iowa as voting nears

By Tim Reid

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden picked up another high profile endorsement on Saturday in Iowa, where the party’s nominating contest kicks off in nine days, after U.S. congresswoman Cindy Axne said she was backing the former vice president.

Axne, a freshman U.S. lawmaker and moderate, is the latest in a slew of big-name endorsements for Biden in Iowa which could have an impact on undecided voters as caucus day nears on Feb. 3. Two former Iowa Democratic governors, Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver, have backed Biden, as has another U.S. House member, congresswoman Abby Finkenauer.

Biden has risen in the polls in Iowa in the past fortnight, and is now ahead in the state or statistically tied with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a liberal from Vermont, according to polls. The race is still unpredictable and Iowa is well known for late shifts in voter sentiment.

Axne, a businesswoman who represents Iowa’s 3rd congressional district, which includes rural areas and the state capital Des Moines, said the priority in November’s general election was defeating Republican President Donald Trump and Biden was best equipped to do that.

“Joe is a man of honor and dignity. He is someone who appeals not only to Democrats, but to independents and Republicans as well. Iowans know that he will be ready on day one to lead this country,” Axne said in a statement released by Biden’s campaign.

The Iowa caucuses will be the first test between moderates and progressives in the Democratic battle to pick a nominee to take on Trump. Biden, 77, has been delivering a message of moderation, telling voters he wants to work with Republicans where possible. Leading rivals such as Sanders and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren have been calling for a massive expansion of government programs and a fundamental restructuring of America’s economic and political systems.

Another more moderate candidate, former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, has been endorsed by the third Democratic member of Iowa’s congressional delegation, U.S. House Representative Dave Loebsack.

There are 12 Democrats vying to be the party's candidate in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

(Reporting by Tim Reid, Editing by Mark Potter)