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Warren hires Iowa aides, including top Sanders and Obama alums, ahead of visit

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who announced on Monday that she is exploring a presidential run, is qu...

Posted: Jan 3, 2019 5:55 AM
Updated: Jan 3, 2019 5:55 AM

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who announced on Monday that she is exploring a presidential run, is quickly assembling a robust and experienced team to lead a campaign in Iowa -- an early signal of the outsized importance of a strong showing in the state.

Emily Parcell, who worked as then-Sen. Barack Obama's Iowa political director for the 2008 caucus and as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton in the state eight years later, has signed on with Warren, along with Janice Rottenberg, according to two sources. Rottenberg was an Ohio organizer for Clinton in 2016 and ran the Iowa Democratic Party's coordinated campaign during the 2018 midterm elections.

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Former Obama aide Tommy Vietor called Parcell's hiring a "huge, huge get for Warren."

"She's one of the best political staffers I have ever worked with and knows everyone in Iowa," he tweeted on Wednesday.

Kane Miller, who was campaign manager for Abby Finkenauer, has also joined Warren's Iowa team, according to a source familiar with the development. Finkenauer defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Rod Blum in November.

Warren has also nabbed Brendan Summers, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' Iowa caucus director in 2016, according to a source familiar with the matter. Summers will help Warren on both Iowa and national efforts, the source said, and has already been involved in planning her visit to Iowa this weekend, when she will hold events in Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Storm Lake and Des Moines.

By hiring Summers, who is held in high regard by Sanders allies, Warren is sending a powerful early message to progressive activists and political strategists closely watching how the Democratic field takes shape. Warren's path to the nomination will depend in large part on who else -- from the party's progressive bloc, in particular -- decides to jump in the race and the position Warren stakes out for herself in that crowded field.

Representatives from Sanders' camp didn't immediately comment on the hire.

In 2016, Clinton defeated Sanders in the Iowa caucus only by a slim margin. Obama's victory there in 2008 -- even as he trailed in national polling -- set him on the path to a historic nomination.

Pete D'Alessandro, Sanders' 2016 Iowa campaign coordinator, told CNN about Summers, "He was my first hire. Anyone who has him on his team has a systemic advantage when it comes to caucuses."

D'Alessandro, who has known Summers for a decade, lauded Warren's early hire and predicted that he would give the senator's operations in Iowa an important boost.

"I truly believe that anyone that has him on their team, in terms of caucuses, has an advantage over anybody else," D'Alessandro said. "He is so good at it, and so good at the numbers and reading the numbers and being able to know where you should go that you just have a systemic advantage having him on the team."

A CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll among likely 2020 Democratic caucus-goers last month placed Warren in fourth place among possible candidates, with 8% support. She trails former Vice President Joe Biden's 32%, Sanders' 19% and outgoing Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's 11%.

This story has been updated.

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