DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet plans to travel to Iowa this month to meet with Democratic activists in the early presidential caucus state as he considers entering his party's 2020 White House field, his aides said Thursday.
The soft-spoken moderate plans to visit working-class Dubuque and nearby towns in northeast Iowa, the heart of territory won by Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and by Republican Donald Trump in 2016.
"Michael is planning a trip to Iowa to engage with voters as he considers whether to enter the race for president," said Craig Hughes, a Bennet political adviser. The visit is scheduled for Feb. 22-23.
Bennet, a two-term senator, had downplayed interest in a presidential candidacy late last fall but has recently suggested his background could resonate in the fast-developing but wide-open Democratic presidential campaign.
"I think that I've got a different set of experiences than the other folks in the race," Bennet said Sunday on "Meet The Press." ''And I think having one more voice in that conversation that's focused on America's future I don't think would hurt."
Bennet has kept a low public profile, though he sits on the influential Finance and Intelligence committees.
However, he had a notably explosive moment last month on the Senate floor when he blasted Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for backing a bill to pay Coast Guard members during the partial government shutdown but not reopen the government. Bennet said Cruz once led a 16-day government shutdown in a failed bid to derail funding for the Affordable Care Act at a time when Colorado was experiencing catastrophic flooding, delaying relief efforts.
"When the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded," Bennet shouted. "People were killed. People's houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were destroyed, forever."
Bennet accused Cruz of crying "crocodile tears" this time around.
Five of Bennet's Senate colleagues are among nine Democrats who have formally launched campaigns for president.
But Bennet is among an emerging group of 2020 prospects with more centrist profiles than many of his would-be rivals such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who announced her candidacy Sunday, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who plans to travel to Iowa on Friday, are portraying themselves as pragmatic Democrats who can win in competitive states.
And Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who also is weighing a 2020 candidacy, is visiting swing-voting and rural parts of early-voting states to talk to voters in regions that Democrats lost to Trump in 2016.
Bennet is also expected to visit Winterset in rural Madison County in southwest Iowa known for its series of century-old covered bridges that inspired the book "The Bridges of Madison County."