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Democrat Warren sends star stand-in to Iowa: her dog Bailey

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (Reuters) – Stuck in Washington as a juror in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial while rivals for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination crisscross Iowa, Senator Elizabeth Warren has tapped a stand-in with undeniable voter appeal: her dog Bailey.

The latest opinion polls show either Senator Bernie Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden in the lead in Iowa just days before the state’s Feb. 3 caucuses, the country’s first contest to see who will challenge Trump in November’s presidential election.

Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, are close behind the leaders, with Senator Amy Klobuchar in fifth place but having gained ground in recent weeks.

Tied up with the trial, Warren canceled appearances in Council Bluffs and Le Mars in the western part of the state on Thursday, and instead sent her husband Bruce Mann and their young golden retriever to meet backers at campaign offices.

“Bailey arrived in Iowa late on Friday. In twenty fours, the Des Moines Register had endorsed Elizabeth … The dog’s a natural closer,” Mann joked, to a tightly-packed room of volunteers and supporters at the Council Bluffs office.

Tail wagging furiously, Bailey posed for selfies, sniffed around camera tripods, and let attendees, young and old, scratch his head.

Many at Thursday afternoon’s meet-and-greet admitted that they had already decided to vote for Warren and had primarily come to see Bailey take center stage.

“He’s like family and he’s integrated into the campaign and I think it’s wonderful,” said Warren supporter Marsha Pinger.  

With its first-in-the-nation status, Iowa is accustomed to being courted by presidential candidates, who make frenzied sprints across the state to greet and woo voters.

Whether Warren’s reduced schedule on the campaign trail will affect her chances of an Iowa victory remains to be seen. Her fellow senators, Sanders and Klobuchar, have also had their travel schedules hampered by the trial.

(Reporting by Pavithra George; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Tom Brown)