WATERLOO — As Vice President Joe Biden’s star has slipped in the last month, his campaign is looking to turn it around with a new hire of a local state representative.
Rep. Ras Smith of Waterloo was hired this week as the campaign’s new Iowa Director of Coalition Building, he confirmed Thursday.
“If we want somebody who can execute, who reflects Iowans’ values and who can beat Donald Trump, I believe that’s Joe Biden,” Smith said.
Smith, a Democrat, has was elected to Iowa House District 62 in 2017, representing portions of Waterloo mainly north and east of the Cedar River, as well as Evansdale, Elk Run Heights and Raymond.
Smith’s new duties will include representing the Biden campaign at events around Iowa and acting as a surrogate and spokesperson for Biden, said Biden’s state political director Will McIntee, himself a Waterloo native.
“We’re very proud to bring Ras on board,” he said. “He has a lot of great connections in Waterloo and across the state.”
McIntee said Waterloo and the surrounding metro area were “vital” to the campaign.
“Black Hawk County in particular I think is really just kind of a nice slice of the electorate as a whole — it’s a labor-heavy community, a lot of really solid working people, but also a community with a lot of diversity,” he said. “It’s really a proving ground ... not just in Iowa but it also can really be proving grounds for a national scale as well.”
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Biden was Iowa Democrats’ top choice in the polls until about mid-September, when he fell below Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who currently polls at an average of 21.8%, according to RealClearPolitics. In recent weeks, he’s also fallen a few points behind Mayor Pete Buttigieg, at 17.5%, and he’s within the margin of error with Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom are just above 15%.
Smith said he had “kind of held out for a while” deciding on a candidate from the vast Democratic presidential field. But he said he relates to Biden politically, calling him a pragmatist and realist who can appeal to a broad coalition.
“We’re blessed to have a wide array of diverse candidates, but I think timing is everything,” Smith said. “He’s tackling goals that are attainable and policies that will move the country forward. We can’t let ideals get in the way of what we can do today.”
Smith said he’s not opposed to policies touted by the more liberal wing of the party and said a President Biden would lay “the foundation of those policies becoming attainable.” But he noted Biden has the relationships with foreign leaders that “need to be repaired on day one,” and his ideas resonate with a broader swath of the electorate, including Trump voters.
“The average voter needs to understand a candidate who’s pragmatic is a candidate that can get things done,” he said. ‘There’s space in our tent.”
Former Waterloo city council member Tom Powers and Rev. Franz Whitfield of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Waterloo both praised Smith’s hire.
“With the addition of Rep. Ras Smith, the Biden campaign will continue reaching every Iowa voter — no matter where they live or what they look like,” the campaign quoted Powers as saying.
“Joe’s team is pounding the pavement every day — bringing all walks of life together just like Joe does,” Whitfield was quoted as saying. “They’re tapping into the excitement for optimism and change folks in Waterloo need.”