Nearly every Democratic candidate spent the weekend in Iowa speaking at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner. For the Democratic presidential candidates, this dinner serves as an opportunity to get their name and face in front of party activists and start getting them more widely recognized in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

Out of the 24 declared candidates, 19 of them showed up to take a five-minute speaking slot at staggered times over the weekend. One name missing from the action was that of former vice president Joe Biden who, once again, as he did last weekend, skipped a widely attended event where would be forced to compete for face time with his Democratic opponents.

New Des Moines Register poll

The Des Moine Register, a statewide Iowa newspaper, often becomes part of the epicenter of politics during presidential cycles. The Register is also known for producing a well-respected caucus poll, usually for both Democratic and Republican caucuses depending on the year. The most recent iteration of this poll is giving Joe Biden a lead, though still less than double-digits ahead of Bernie Sanders in second place:

Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers say former vice president Biden is their first choice for president. Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively.

No other candidate cracks double digits. California Sen. Kamala Harris comes closest at 7%, and other numbers within the poll indicate some underlying strengths for her.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke are at 2%.

To put the poll in a more reader-friendly format:

24% – Joe Biden
16% – Bernie Sanders
15% – Elizabeth Warren
14% – Pete Buttigieg
7% – Kamala Harris
2% – Amy Klobuchar
2% – Beto O’Rourke

Source: Iowa Poll of 600 likely 2020 Democratic caucus participants, including 433 in-person participants and 167 virtual participants, June 2-5. MOE +/- 4%

The winners in this poll clearly have to be Warren and Buttigieg, two candidates who are getting attention from Iowa voters and haven’t been written off yet.

Obviously, Biden is still leading, but his lead is not all that impressive when compared to leads in national polls or in other states. Regardless of what analysts say every year, sometimes questioning whether the Iowa caucuses matter as much as they used to, the truth is that the nature of the contest, being first on the primary calendar, means it will always have great importance.

Bernie Sanders floating in second place, just above the middle tier candidates might be semi-alarming for his campaign. As the probable heir apparent, having basically finished second place for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Sanders will need to win these early states to remain competitive.

Hats off to Elizabeth Warren though, probably the most notable name to be near the top of this poll. Her campaign faltered several times at the beginning of the year, but she eventually regained footing and is now posting numbers sitting at third place in Iowa which is not a bad position to be in this far out. She’s in the mix, on the minds of voters, but she won’t be taking shots as the front runner, a position currently reserved for Biden.

Iowa cattle call for 2020 Democrats

More reporting from the Associated Press on the gaggle of candidates showing up in Iowa to deliver their five-minute campaign stump speeches before a large crowd of influential Iowa Democrats:

In five-minute chunks of speaking time, the candidates got the chance to make their case before 1,400 of the most influential Democrats in the leadoff caucus state. Some chose to nudge the national front-runner, and leader in a new Iowa poll, without naming him.

The sharpest jabs came from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who painted Biden as too cautious at a time he argued demands stark change.

Sanders, who trails only Biden in the polls, described a “well-intentioned” candidate pursuing “a middle-ground strategy that antagonizes no one, that stands up to nobody and that changes nothing.”

“In my view that approach is not just bad public policy but it is a failed political strategy that I feel could end up with the re-election of Donald Trump,” Sanders said.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose quiet, Midwestern approach and profile as 37-year-old Afghanistan veteran and married gay man has captured some Iowans’ attention, also not so subtly challenged the idea that Biden’s experience made him the best party standard bearer.

“We’re not going to win by playing it safe or promising a return to normal,” Buttigieg said. “We are where we are because normal broke. … Democrats can no more promise a return to the ’90s than Republicans can deliver on a promise to return us to the ’50s.”

ABC News put together a great report on the event which aired Sunday evening that includes several clips of candidates and some more background on the Iowa event:

Biden is probably smart to skip these early events. His name alone brings him enough support that he doesn’t have to stoop to the level of being 1 of 20 names on a list of speakers. If Biden wants to speak in Iowa to Democratic Party activists, he’ll set up his own event and talk for as long as he wants. The other candidates, perhaps aside from Bernie, don’t have that same luxury.

There were reports over the weekend that Beto O’Rourke spoke to half-empty Iowa church. For lower-tier candidates, like Beto, at this point, these events help get them back in front of the cameras and back in front of the voters.

We’re just days away from key dates this week on the 2020 Democratic campaign trail when it comes to final candidate selection for the first Democratic debate later this month. The attacks are becoming stronger and the campaign speeches are getting a little more cutting in the way the candidates are now attacking each other.

The knives are coming out as the primary ratchets up.