Iowa Caucus 2020 | Minnesota Public Radio News

Iowa Caucus 2020

Coverage of the Iowa Caucuses from a Minnesota perspective.

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    How the Iowa Caucuses Work

    "The Iowa caucus is not a simple exercise — it requires 1,678 gyms, churches, libraries and schools across the state. Each location executes a complicated choreography in which hundreds of people migrate around a room to aggregate in their candidate’s corner. Their presence is their vote." (New York Times)
  • For Some Iowa Voters, Caucuses Remain A Barrier To Participation

    Iowa Democrats have worked to make the caucuses more accessible for Iowans who face physical, language and scheduling barriers. But some say it's still difficult to have their voices heard.
  • As Democrats scramble for caucus support, many Iowa farmers say they’ll stick with Trump

    Many farmers at a big equipment show in Des Moines say they’re still behind President Trump, and they’re hoping his trade policies will pay off.

    We’re heading into the final full day of campaigning before Monday’s caucuses. MPR News journalists Brian Bakst and Cody Nelson answered your questions about the Iowa Caucuses. 

    What question do you have for our reporters that are following candidates around the state? Tweet #AskMPRnews or send us an email.

    The Democratic senators running for president got a break from the impeachment trial for the weekend. They’ll return on Monday for closing arguments, but can get back to Iowa before the caucuses start at 7 p.m. CT.

    On Monday night, stay right here for live results and listen to special coverage.
  • Minnesota Democrats descend on Iowa for final push ahead of Monday's caucuses
    Brian Bakst, MPR News
    Des Moines, Iowa

    Working the phones or firing up the faithful, Minnesota backers of several Democratic presidential candidates descended on Iowa on Friday for the final push ahead of next week’s leadoff caucuses in their party’s nominating race.

    Mayors Melvin Carter of St. Paul and Emily Larson of Duluth trekked to three appearances to vouch for Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, while Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar helped launch a mass canvassing event for Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

    “I am excited about what you are about to do here in Iowa, trying to tell the rest of the states that follow that we are ready,” Omar told dozens of Sanders volunteers squeezed into a campaign office in Des Moines, Iowa. “We are ready to elect a president that fully sees every single American.”

    The assistance has come in handy for Sanders and Klobuchar, both of whom have been stuck in Washington much of the last two weeks during President Trump’s impeachment trial. Both planned to race to Iowa for their closing pitches this weekend.

    In Mason City, Iowa, former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Bill Luther dialed voters identified as being on the fence to vouch for his home-state senator.

    “[Klobuchar] has realistic progressive approaches to things, and we have to be realistic in order to make this election about our vision as a party versus what we're seeing in the office right now,” Luther said, inviting those on the other end of his calls to a rally Klobuchar will hold in the northern Iowa city on Sunday.

    Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan are due to join the Klobuchar brigade this weekend.

    Walz said his message would be simple.

    “She gets stuff done. I’m going to go down there and tell them that this is what good leadership looks like,” Walz said. “And if you’re tired of the drama and you’re tired of all the things that are happening, this is a great choice.”

    More reinforcements are on the way, including Minnesota boosters of Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

    Dorian Eder, of Minneapolis, is en route to Iowa on Sunday for Warren. She’s willing to make calls, knock doors, drive people to their caucus site or even watch their children if that’s an impediment to participation on Monday night. She’s already cast an early ballot for Warren in Minnesota, where she’s organized debate watches and house parties.

    “I’ve done all I can do from here in Minnesota,” Eder said. “I don’t want to leave anything on the table. I want to make sure I do everything I can do to help Elizabeth Warren become the president because I think she’s the best.”

    At the Sanders event, another Minnesotan, Jean Ross of Bloomington, told the crowd that his bold ideas are what the country needs on health care, student debt and other issues. Ross is president of National Nurses United, a union of 150,000 members nationwide.

    She’s been in Iowa since Thursday, sending text messages and making calls to remind people of the approaching caucuses. It’ll be another month before Minnesota gets its turn on Super Tuesday.

    Ross confessed to being “a little” jealous of Iowa voters.

    “I can imagine everybody here thinks it’s nice to be the first. But I’m anxious to see how he does in Minnesota again,” Ross said, referring to Sanders’ 2016 run. “We won last time with him and I think we can do it again with him.”
  • Former Minnesota Rep. Bill Luther makes calls on behalf of Sen. Amy Klobuchar's presidential campaign from her Mason City office. Brian Bakst | MPR News
  • 2020 candidates brace for frenzied, final weekend in Iowa

    WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

    Democratic presidential candidates are launching a final, frenetic weekend of campaigning ahead of the Iowa caucuses, kick-starting the battle to take on President Donald Trump in November. A burst of late campaigning began Friday. The Senate pushed back voting on Trump's impeachment trial until Wednesday, which allowed the senators who had been stuck in Washington to begin returning to the campaign trail. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was flying to Iowa late Friday night and heading straight to a Des Moines brewery.
    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates kicked off a final, frenetic weekend of campaigning Friday ahead of the Iowa caucuses, which will begin the battle to take on President Donald Trump in November. 

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, returned to the campaign trail a day after knocking each other and progressive rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet, who were stuck in Washington for Trump's impeachment trial, can finally get back to wooing voters after the Senate pushed final voting on the president's fate until Wednesday. 
    Warren, a Massachusetts senator, was flying to Iowa late Friday night and heading straight to a Des Moines brewery. That came hours after her husband, Bruce Mann, as he delivered a speech before 700 supporters in her stead, invited anyone interested to cross the street and have a late-night beer with her. 
    Warren also began airing television and online ads arguing she's the most electable candidate in a crowded primary field — capable of uniting the party and defeating Trump while silencing doubts that sexism could prevent a woman from winning the White House.
    Sanders' campaign, meanwhile, hosted a concert featuring music from the band Bon Iver as part of his effort to energize young voters, and he called into the event from Washington. He has predicted that, if turnout is high during Monday's caucus, he will win. 
    Speaking on Capitol Hill before the impeachment trial wrapped up for the week, Klobuchar said her campaign would move forward even if she couldn't be in Iowa on the day of the caucuses.
    "I just say bring it on," Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, said. "Because I just have faith in the people of the country to actually want someone with the experience of standing up."
    All face a competition that is exceedingly fluid. Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Warren are bunched at the top of most Iowa polls, and Klobuchar has shown signs of strength in recent weeks. Everyone is looking for a strong finish here that could lift them heading into later contests that will help decide the Democratic nomination.
    In a race this jumbled, competition is intensifying among the candidates to at least emerge from Iowa as the leader of their ideological lanes. For Sanders and Warren, the caucus represents an opportunity to consolidate support from progressives. They both back priorities such as universal, government-funded health care under "Medicare for All" and wiping out virtually all student debt. But neither has yet pulled away as the undisputed leader of the party's left flank.
    "The only way to not have that issue is to have one win and the other lose," said Rebecca Katz, a liberal Democratic strategist based in New York. "I think what you see is the progressive wing is very big and has a lot of needs. It's not something where, all of a sudden, one becomes the leading progressive and all fall in line. Especially if they finish one-two (in Iowa). It's not cut and dried." 
    The moderate slice of the party is also struggling to unite behind options that include Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar. 
    As a former vice president who is competing in the Iowa caucuses for the third time, Biden is a well-known figure in the state and has won the backing of several leading current and former elected leaders. But attendance at his rallies has been relatively small in recent days. A super PAC aligned with his campaign has already poured $7.6 million into Iowa — meaning it may not be able to provide additional help in other states if Biden fails to meet expectations.
    Still, Biden said Friday he's expecting big things in Iowa. 
    "I've been saying from the beginning, I think we're going to do well here. I think it's going to be really tight no matter how it works out," the former vice president said.
    Biden has lately intensified his attacks on Sanders, questioning whether the senator is truly a Democrat given his democratic socialist ideology. Sanders' camp has shrugged that off, saying it didn't work for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primary and it won't resonate now. 
    On Friday, though, the former vice president reversed course, conceding, "Bernie is a Democrat."
    "We have a different view on a whole lot of things. He's a decent guy," Biden told ABC. 
    While campaigning in Fort Madison, Iowa, Biden argued that he was the candidate Trump least wants to face in the fall. He pointed to the recent attention he's gotten from Republicans during the impeachment trial and in Iowa, where Trump mocked his small crowd sizes during a visit to the state on Thursday.
    "They don't want me to be the nominee. I wonder why," he said. "Because they know if I am, we are going to beat him."
    The 38-year-old Buttigieg unveiled a video Friday stressing party unity. But, on the campaign trail, he has singled out the 78-year-old Sanders as too uncompromising in his progressive views and the 77-year-old Biden as being tainted by past political brawls during a long career in Washington.
    "The vice president will say we cannot take a risk on someone new," Buttigieg said while campaigning in Council Bluffs, Iowa, drawing a contrast between himself and Biden. "We cannot take the risk of trying to fall back on the old playbook." 
    Sanders, he said, speaks to "goals that I think everybody shares while presenting it in a political forum that says you either have to choose between revolution or status quo."
    While Sanders and Warren were unable to make their final appeals in person all week because of impeachment, being tethered to Washington may have been especially frustrating for Klobuchar. She had been seemingly gaining ground in Iowa but could see that momentum fade by missing time on the trail.
    "My ask of you is to run for me, to help me," Klobuchar said in a telephone town hall with New Hampshire voters.
    In a memo to reporters, her campaign said that her being the only candidate to campaign in all 99 Iowa counties can boost Klobuchar in smaller communities, where the threshold of support needed to pick up delegates to the Democratic National Convention is lower. 
    "Achieving viability in rural and mid-sized precincts will propel us forward in the delegate count," campaign manager Justin Buoen and senior caucus adviser Norm Sterzenbach wrote.
    Bennet, the Colorado senator, attempted to provide his own contrast to the rest of the field by unveiling a new television ad airing in New Hampshire, which votes after Iowa.
    A field that was once the largest in modern history also lost another member when John Delaney exited the race Friday. The former Maryland congressman poured millions of dollars of his own money into the race but never gained traction.
    "At this moment in time, this is not the purpose God has for me," Delaney told CNN. 
  • Iowa Caucus 2020 Live Results And Updates

    Follow NPR’s live coverage, including results and analysis, of the Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the 2020 presidential election.
  • As Caucus Day Nears, Iowa Voters Guided By Big Health Care Changes

    Health care has consistently polled as the No. 1 issue for Iowa voters. As they prepare to caucus, voters weigh which candidate to support and what health care should look like in the future.
  • Iowa Dems train to fight caucus disinformation

    The party says it made changes in light of 2016’s messy caucuses, and in response to concerns about disinformation and outside influences.
  • Night Flight: D.C. To Des Moines

    When the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump ended for the day last night, the senators who are running for president returned as fast as possible to the campaign trail.

    After landing late in Des Moines, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren headed to a packed local brewery to rally her supporters.

    Warren is one of four senators who have been off the campaign trail during impeachment proceedings. Surrogates including former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, members of Congress and Warren’s husband have been campaigning for her in her absence.

    The other three senator-candidates affected by the impeachment trial are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.

    The trial resumes on Monday — the day of the caucuses.

  • How Do The Iowa Caucuses Work For Republicans?

    Saul Loeb | AFP via Getty Images
    The Iowa Republican Party still plans to hold caucuses for GOP candidates, despite several state Republican parties choosing not to amid tepid support for President Trump’s challengers.

    While Democrats publicly declare their candidate preference with movement and debate, the Republican process is much simpler, with Iowans gathering together and voting on private paper ballots.

    There are 40 delegates at stake for Republicans on Monday night. Iowa Republicans have 1,680 precinct caucus locations, ranging from spaces in libraries to fire stations and sometimes private homes.

    The caucuses will begin at 7 p.m. CT. Here’s how it works step by step:

    1. There’s a call to order and a caucus chair and secretary are elected.
    2. Presidential candidate representatives speak and make their case.
    3. Caucusgoers pick a candidate through paper ballot.
    4. Votes are tallied and reported to party headquarters. The information will be sent via a mobile app.

    Delegates are then elected to attend county conventions and are assigned to candidates based on the same proportion of votes each individual candidate receives on caucus night. This was a change that the Republican National Committee instituted in 2016, after the 2012 Ron Paul campaign garnered an outsized share of the delegates and took over the state party.

  • Minnesota Democrats descend on Iowa for final push ahead of Monday's caucuses

    Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s presidential fortunes are on the line Monday, drawing her Minnesota supporters to Iowa to help out. But backers of other candidates are making the trek south, too.
  • New Democratic Party Rules Could Put Bloomberg On Debate Stage

    The Democratic National Committee is eliminating the requirement for candidates to show grassroots donor support in order to appear in the Nevada debate on Feb. 19.
  • Biden camp prepping backers for extended fight beyond Iowa


    By Bill Barrow, Associated Press

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Three days before the Iowa caucuses begin the 2020 nominating process, Joe Biden’s campaign manager downplayed the significance of Iowa and New Hampshire and prepped supporters for an extended primary season.

    “The vice president has said many times: Monday’s contest begins the process, it doesn’t end it,” Greg Schultz wrote in a Friday memo obtained by The Associated Press.

    Schultz told supporters that Biden will be “competitive” in the battle for “a small number of delegates” at stake in the first two Democratic presidential contests, but he devoted much of the two-page document to explaining why Biden is “well-positioned to win” a nominating fight that could last “into the summer.”

    The memo came hours before the Biden campaign disclosed that it had only about $9 million on hand to start the year, a precariously low sum with the expensive months of travel, advertising and personnel costs ahead for campaigns. Schultz did not mention the cash-on-hand figure in the document. The campaign will need to engender confidence among donors if it hopes to sustain the kind of lengthy effort Schultz described, particularly with billionaire Michael Bloomberg looming with a self-financed campaign that is on track to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Schultz stopped short of predicting a brokered convention, with no candidate securing the required delegate majority in advance. But he announced the hiring of a top delegate strategist, David Huynh, and the addition of several fundraising heavy hitters as evidence of the campaign's preparation for a long fight.

    The memo is consistent with the Biden campaign’s argument that the first two contests won’t determine the nominee, given that much more racially diverse states follow that are better territory for the former vice president and award more delegates. But it’s a strikingly different approach from that of rivals like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who boasted in recent days that he can sweep Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

    Biden himself acted as pundit Friday as he campaigned in Mount Pleasant, telling reporters he expects to do well in Iowa. “It’s gonna remain bunched up, I think,” he said.

    The first four nominating contests spread across February should be viewed, Biden continued, “as a package” to assess “who can represent every aspect of the Democratic Party.” He noted his polling advantage in the fourth state, South Carolina, calling it his "firewall.”

    The Schultz memo didn't mention Sanders but countered the idea that any candidate can build unstoppable momentum this early. "It’s highly possible there will be a small delegate differential among the top candidates on February 4 and February 12,” Schultz wrote.

    That's where Huynh, one of the party’s foremost delegates and rules experts, could prove critical as Biden's newest aide. Huynh worked previously for California Sen. Kamala Harris’ now-defunct 2020 presidential campaign, and he was a top delegate adviser to Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, earning the nickname “Delegate Dave” in the process.

    Schultz emphasized several new additions to Biden’s national finance team, including former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, a billionaire businesswoman and sister to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker; Marc Lasry, the billionaire co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks; and former Ambassador Rufus Gifford, a prodigious fundraiser who served as the finance chairman of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

    Schultz wrote that Biden had the best fundraising month of his campaign in January, despite avoiding any specifics. Biden raised $22.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, which was his best quarter since joining the field in April.

    Red flags went up in October after Biden reported having about the same $9 million on hand at the end of September that he just reported having at the start of the year. But aides and some donors insist that many deep-pocketed Democrats who’d been on the sidelines for months have started contributing, while Biden also picked up support as other candidates, including Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, dropped out. Schultz also said Biden’s digital fundraising has accelerated.

    Polls in Iowa show Biden is in a cluster with Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. The race is also competitive in New Hampshire. But Biden has consistently held leads among nonwhite Democratic voters who make up a larger proportion of the electorate in the states that follow, starting with the Nevada caucuses and then the South Carolina primary. The slate of Super Tuesday states also is racially and ethnically diverse.

    More than a third of Democrats’ almost-4,000 pledged convention delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday. Democrats award delegates proportionately to candidates who get at least 15% of the statewide vote or 15% in a congressional district. With the potential for several viable campaigns, that could mean it will take months before any candidate can cobble together a majority of pledged delegates.

    “Having Dave head up that process for us is an enormous advantage,” Schultz wrote, “and we’re excited to have him on board.”


    Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report from Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

  • Think you know Iowa? Take AP quiz before Monday's caucuses

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — For a brief few days, Iowa will be the center of the political universe, thanks to the state's caucuses, which kick off the presidential nominating season. Every four years, candidates spend months and millions wooing the state's fickle caucusgoers. It'll happen again this Monday. How well do you know Iowa? Take our quiz and find out.

    1. Who is the most famous person from Winterset?

    2. What first lady was born in Boone?

    3. Who won the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 1976?

    4. Who was the “heater from Van Meter”

    5. Where was technology developed that transformed fax machines into universal business machines?

    6. What famous late-night TV host was born in Corning?

    7. What is the hometown of the band leader Glenn Miller?

    8. Which Iowan painted “American Gothic?“

    9. Which famous newspaper advice columnists are from Sioux City?

    10. Which president was born in West Branch?

    11. Which Iowan ran for president against Franklin Roosevelt?

    12. In what year did both Republican and Democratic nominee finish third in the Iowa caucuses?

    13. What TV sitcom actor and former MTV “Punked” host is a Cedar Rapids native?

    14. What Burlington native was Super Bowl XXXIV MVP and attended University of Northern Iowa?

    15. Which Iowan played Gopher on “The Love Boat” and was also elected to the U.S. House?

    16. Until he became U.S. ambassador to China in 2017, he was the longest serving governor in U.S. history

    17. What early rock musician died on Feb. 3, 1959, in an icy plane crash after playing the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake in northern Iowa?

    18. Which Republican presidential candidate lost the Iowa caucuses on his first try before winning twice?

    19. What percentage of the delegate count did Democrat Joe Biden receive in the 2008 Iowa caucus?

    20. Who won the Iowa Republican caucus in 2016?

    ANSWERS: 1. John Wayne 2. Mamie Eisenhower 3. Uncommitted (not Jimmy Carter) 4. Bob Feller 5. Iowa State University 6. Johnny Carson 7. Clarinda 8. Grant Wood 9. Abigail Van Buren, known as “Dear Abby,” and Eppie Lederer, known as “Ann Landers.” 10. Herbert Hoover 11. Henry Wallace 12. Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988. 13. Ashton Kutcher 14. Kurt Warner 15. Fred Grandy 16. Terry Branstad 17. Buddy Holly 18. Bob Dole 19. 1 percent 20. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

  • How The Iowa Caucuses Work For Democrats

    Democratic and Republican caucuses are held in separate locations and are structured fairly differently, with Democratic voters publicly deciding in groups whom they are supporting (as well as now writing down from whom they are caucusing).

    There are 41 delegates at stake on caucus night (with an additional eight automatic delegates — previously referred to as “superdelegates” — who bypass this process and go straight to the Democratic National Convention).

    There are 1,678 precinct locations in schools, public buildings and sometimes private homes or places of worship. (There will also be 97 satellite locations located in-state, around the country and internationally to accommodate voters who have nontraditional schedules.)

    The caucuses will begin at 7 p.m. CT and will last roughly around an hour.

    There are two rounds of caucusing, and the only way a candidate can get any delegates is if they attain 15% of the room’s support. Here’s how it works step by step:

    1. There’s a call to order and a caucus chair and secretary are elected.
    2. Caucusgoers separate into groups for their candidate of choice.
    3. Time is usually made for supporters of each candidate to make their cases.
    4. When the groups are formed, the elected chair adds up how many supporters are in each group. Also, caucusgoers will write down whom they are supporting.
    5. Each candidate has to meet a viability threshold of 15%, meaning that the number of people in each cluster has to be at least 15% of the entire group participating.

    After Step 5, these caucusgoers’ votes are “locked-in” for candidates who surpassed the 15% threshold. This leaves the people who caucused for candidates that did not get 15% of the room’s votes to then “re-caucus.”

    1. For any candidate who did not get 15% of the people in the room, that candidate’s supporters have to make a new choice for the second and final alignment.
    2. During the re-caucusing process, those remaining will have to either: choose one of the candidates who did get 15%; choose “uncommitted”; leave; or convince others re-caucusing to join their nonviable group and make it viable.
    3. Once re-caucusing is settled, caucusing is over. The numbers are tallied and sent to party headquarters via a mobile app.

    From there, the 1,678 precinct caucuses create 11,402 delegates, which are filtered to 41 national convention delegates at a mix of county, congressional district and state conventions.

    But the number you need to watch for Monday night is the state delegate equivalent. More on those SDEs as we get closer to caucusing.

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