Iowa Caucus 2020
Coverage of the Iowa Caucuses from a Minnesota perspective.
Team Klobuchar preps for caucus-night party in Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa — Hours before Iowa Democrats headed to caucus Monday night, the downtown Marriott hotel here was buzzing with national press and campaign staff ahead of Amy Klobucar's caucus-night party.
The major broadcast networks, plus Minnesota and Iowa local stations, had TV cameras set on risers at the back of the hotel ballroom where a giant monitor played CNN to the left of the stage. Wellstone-green "Amy for America" signs adorned the walls throughout the hotel as Klobuchar staff and journalists scurried about the building.
The scene was a far cry from Klobuchar's first presidential campaign event in the state.
Last February, she made her first formal pitch to Iowans at a bar in Mason City. She had just a makeshift stage and soundsystem at the event and traveled with a small entourage including her daughter, Abigail Klobuchar Bessler, and husband, John Bessler.
Fast-forward a year and she's traveling by plane with embedded reporters and a much larger staff, traversing the state in a two-day campaign swing over the weekend.
It's been a hectic home-stretch for Klobuchar's Iowa caucus campaigning. Her job has kept her in Washington, where she's serving as a juror in President Trump's Senate impeachment trial.
Her final campaign event in Iowa Sunday night was cut short (she made a 7-minute stump speech, compared to her regular one that clocks in at over a half hour) so she could fly back to the nation's capitol.
However, she planned to fly back to Des Moines Monday as soon as the trial finished for the day.— Cody Nelson
Here's a familiar face at the Iowa caucus! Jared was among voters in Minneapolis who camped out overnight to be the first in line to cast their ballots on Jan. 17. Check out that story here.
What Are SDEs? What You Should Know As The Results Come In
For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party is going to be releasing three separate results at the same time at the end of the night.
- The preference vote after the first round.
- The preference vote after recaucusing.
- The number and percentage of “state delegate equivalents,” or SDEs, that the candidates are awarded out of each of the caucus locations.
The percentage of the SDEs won is traditionally how a “winner” is determined. NPR relies on the Associated Press to call elections. AP will project a winner of the Iowa caucuses based on the SDE calculation. One reason for this is not just tradition but because this is the contest the campaigns play for; it is the truer measure of the campaigns’ organizational strength.
Simply put, SDEs are not delegates. But with some math, SDEs are converted to the proportional amount of delegates a candidate gets in each precinct.
There are 2,107 total SDEs up for grabs on caucus night in Iowa. Here’s the formula: Take the number of people in a candidate’s corner at the end of the second (and final) round, multiply that by the number of delegates assigned to the precinct and then divide that by the total number of caucusgoers at the site.
So if Biden hypothetically gets 20% in a precinct that awards 40 delegates, and 100 people showed up, the math looks like this:
- 20 x 40 = 800 (the number of people in a candidate’s corner multiplied by the number of delegates)
- 800/100 = 8 (Divide that number by the total number of caucusgoers)
Eight is the number of SDEs Biden would win out of this particular caucus site. Add that to his other SDEs from the other 1,677 caucus locations for an eventual statewide total.
Iowans Abroad: Progressive Candidates Get Support In Far-Flung Caucuses
Bernie Sanders could be rising in Scotland. Elizabeth Warren may take France.
The numbers are puny and aren’t expected to have bearing on the final results, but some early tallies are beginning to be reported from Iowa’s far-flung voting centers. It’s part of the Democrats’ first-time effort to hold caucuses for Iowans abroad.
Vermont Sen. Sanders won support from nine of the 19 caucusgoers in Glasgow, Scotland, The Associated Press reported, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Warren and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
In Paris, meanwhile, a France24 journalist tweeted that Warren garnered the most support, followed by Sanders, Klobuchar and Buttigieg.
The AP reported that the Paris caucus was organized by a 20-year-old first-time voter.
As noted earlier on the liveblog, Iowans in the former Soviet republic of Georgia also completed caucuses. A journalist there tweeted that the results from the Georgia caucus would be made known after caucuses in Iowa take place.
These are some of the dozens of satellite caucuses taking place outside of Iowa, three of them overseas.— Alex Leff
What To Know About The Iowa Caucuses
Voting in the Democratic presidential nominating contest is about to kick off with the Iowa caucuses.
The stakes are high in Iowa — the last four Democratic nominees have all won the Hawkeye State. But after about a year of campaigning and $50 million spent here by the candidates, the outcome is unclear.
When are the Iowa caucuses?
7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET
How long should they last?
About an hour, maybe less this year, because of a rules change allowing only two rounds of caucusing.
When should we expect results?
The first results are expected to start coming in by 8:45 p.m. ET or so. It could take longer if results are close.
Iowa Democratic voters seek fundamental change
The first voters to make their choice in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination are desperate for fundamental change to the political system.
Roughly two-thirds of Iowa caucusgoers said supporting a candidate who would transform how the system in Washington works was important to their vote, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Democratic caucuses.
That compares to about a third of caucusgoers who said it was more important to support a candidate who would restore the political system to how it was before President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
The survey also found that two issues that have been front and center during the campaign were at the top of Iowa Democrats' minds: health care and climate change.
Here’s a snapshot of Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa — who they are and what matters to them — based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a survey of 2,795 voters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
A strong opponent to Trump
About 8 in 10 Iowa caucusgoers expressed anger toward the Trump administration. A minority said they were dissatisfied but not angry, or satisfied with the Republican president.
Beating Trump in November, along with providing strong leadership, outranked other qualities as most important in a nominee. More than 8 in 10 Democratic caucusgoers said it was very important the party’s nominee can defeat the incumbent president. Close to as many said they find it highly important to nominate someone who will be a strong leader.
What else voters want
Three-quarters of likely caucusgoers said it’s very important their choice for the Democratic nominee cares about people like them, while nearly two-thirds said it's very important the party’s nominee have the best policy ideas.
Six in 10 Democratic voters said it was very important the Democratic nominee will work across party lines. Fewer Democrats — about half — placed significant importance on a nominee who has the “right experience” as they considered a field that includes a former vice president, three sitting U.S. senators, two former mayors and a few with experience in business.
The health care debate
Health care has been at the forefront of the Democratic campaign to date, with the issue getting top billing from candidates during stump speeches, on debate nights and at town halls. And there’s a reason why: It was identified as the top issue facing the country by Iowa Democrats.
Roughly 4 in 10 likely caucusgoers identified health care as their top issue. Seven in 10 supported a proposed single-payer health care plan, which would change the health care system so that all Americans receive insurance from a government plan instead of private insurance plans.
At the same time, nearly 9 in 10 favor the proposal for an optional government plan that any Americans could buy into if they wanted.
A wide share — about 6 in 10 — expressed support for either plan, but roughly a quarter favored “Medicare for All” and opposed “Medicare for all who want it.” Only about 1 in 10 expressed the opposite opinions, in favor of a public option but opposed to a single-payer system.
Along with health care, climate change was identified as the top issue facing the country by 3 in 10 Iowa voters.
Among all caucusgoers, nearly 9 in 10 expressed support for a tax on the use of carbon-based fuels, including oil, coal and natural gas. Nearly half were strongly in favor of the proposal.
Movie Theater Hosts Satellite Caucus In Arizona
Close to 200 people are gathering at a satellite caucus site in Queen Creek, Arizona, about an hour east of Phoenix. It’s one of nearly 100 satellite caucuses the Iowa Democratic Party orgaEvent organizer and life-long Iowan Joan Koenigs She said people have come from all over the state, driving many hours.
Koenigs originally planned to hold the event at her house, but the interest was so overwhelming that caucus will be in a movie theater instead, an expense that came out of Koenigs pocket.
“Hosting this has been rather costly for me. This facility was more than we intended to spend but the numbers kept growing and there was no turning back," said Koenigs. Shortly after, the caucusgoers passed around a hat and recouped her expenses.
One Iowan called it “the most comfortable caucus” he’s ever attended.
Many present are retirees who spend part of the year in Arizona. Among them is Mary Logan of Mount Vernon, Iowa, who spends 4 months each year in Arizona. She says she saw the recent movie about Mister Rogers at this theater. “Our default is love and caring. That’s what we are craving - being aligned with each other. I may not agree with you but let’s not hate each other - and that is what has been preached to us for three years from this White House."
Biden Surrogate Tom Vilsack Says ‘Mid-Size Turnout Favors Joe Biden’
Joe Biden supporter and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack tells NPR he is skeptical that 2020 turnout numbers will surpass the record highs set in 2008.
In an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, Vilsack added that a lower caucus turnout could actually benefit Biden.
Vilsack, who also served as agriculture secretary in the Obama administration, has been campaigning with the former vice president throughout the day.
Vilsack: I suspect the turnout is not going to be as great as it was in 2008, but perhaps a bit more than what it was in 2016. In that scenario, I think Joe Biden does very well. I think he —
Kelly: You think high turnout favors Joe Biden?
Vilsack: No, I think — I think an average to mid-size turnout favors Joe Biden. I think if there is a large turnout and it exceeds 2008, that may obviously support Sen. Sanders’ contention that he can somehow bring additional people into the process.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has been leading in the Iowa polls for the past week, with the former vice president in second. Sanders has also visited the Hawkeye state more than Biden has — holding 138 events to Biden’s 117.
Vilsack also stressed the importance of delegate counts over the number of raw votes, referencing that precincts will report the first and final rounds of votes in addition to the state delegate equivalent — a change that may increase momentum for some campaigns.
“People should be very patient. It may be a long night before we know for a fact how the delegate count came out,” Vilsack told Kelly, adding later, “I think there’s a tendency on the part of some to suggest that that [the raw vote] is equal to a victory.”
Online misinformation fuels doubt as 2020 vote kicks off
Well before Iowans cast the first ballots of the 2020 presidential race, an insidious campaign to seed distrust in the election process was already underway.
Conservative and liberal activists took to social media to push outright false or unproven claims to their online followers. Suspicions even reached President Donald Trump, who questioned the Democratic primary's fairness to his tens of millions of Twitter followers.
Misleading social media complaints — some go as far as alleging a vast conspiracy will determine the next president — were likely to intensify over the course of the presidential race.
The falsehoods could so erode faith in the election that a losing candidate's supporters may refuse to accept the results, either for the nomination or the White House, warned David Becker, founder and director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research.
"The thing that keeps me up at night," Becker said, is that even if the 2020 election is fair and well-managed, “the losing party's supporters won't accept that democracy worked.”
On the eve of Monday's Iowa caucuses, conservative pundits used Twitter posts and YouTube videos to wrongly allege that the vote is ripe for fraud because there are more adults registered to vote in eight Iowa counties than actually living there.
Not true, according to the state's own publicly available voting information. Secretary of State Paul Pate debunked the claim Monday on Twitter, where the erroneous assertion had been liked and retweeted by thousands of social media users. The claim was initially planted on a YouTube video put out by the conservative group Judicial Watch.
“It’s unfortunate this organization continues to put out inaccurate data regarding voter registration, and it’s especially disconcerting they chose the day of the Iowa Caucus to do this,” Pate said. His office released and tweeted data that showed the number of voters registered in those eight counties did not actually exceed the adult population.
But the claim grew online — liked, retweeted and viewed thousands of times. Some even accused Pate of lying about official voter registration numbers, showing how difficult it can be to correct online misinformation once it’s shared widely.
“Stop lying and fix the problem otherwise you’re the problem,” one woman tweeted to Pate.
Tom Fitton, who leads Judicial Watch, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that he used older statistics and census numbers to argue that the number of registered voters outnumbered the entire adult population in eight Iowa counties. Fitton maintained voter fraud is “a big issue” and said he released the findings in order to coincide with the Iowa caucuses.
Other social media users seized on campaign developments over the weekend to suggest the presidential election process was rigged.
On Saturday, The Des Moines Register and CNN announced that it would withhold the results of a final presidential poll because Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s name was omitted from at least one interview.
Social media users who identify as supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders quickly turned to Twitter where, using #ReleaseThePoll, they alleged that the media outlets intentionally suppressed the results only to hide how well Sanders was doing in the state.
“We know Bernie Sanders is winning Iowa and we the people deserve to see the results of the poll!” one Twitter user wrote in a tweet shared hundreds of times.
The claims hark back to the 2016 election, when Sanders’ supporters griped that the Democratic Party had “rigged” the primary process in favor of Hillary Clinton. Trump, who could see Sanders as his Democratic challenger in his reelection bid, has also repeatedly floated the idea that Democratic establishment treated Sanders unfairly in 2016.
And hours before Monday’s caucus began, Trump used Twitter to capitalize on that lingering frustration among Sanders’ supporters and again fuel suspicion about that process.
“The DNC on Bernie Sanders, ‘Looks like they’re going to do it to him again, doesn’t it?’” Trump’s tweet, sent Monday morning, said in part.
Trump is hoping to propagate uncertainty about the election process among Sanders’ supporters, said Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of political rhetoric at Texas A&M University. It’s a strategy that worked in Trump’s favor during the last presidential election -- and Trump hopes it will help him again this year, she said.
“He’s either wanting them to distrust the process and stay home, or distrust the process and vote for him," Mercieca said. “He’s a strong believer in circulating conspiracy theory when he thinks its to his advantage.”
For Sanders, It’s Also About Turnout
“We fit a lot of people into a small room,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders at a meet-and-greet at his Newton field office over the weekend. The room was at capacity with 150 people, all fanning themselves to keep cool.
Sanders called the campaign “a tight race” and said a victory in Monday’s caucuses depends on turnout. “If we have low turnout,” he said, “we lose.”
But despite the close quarters and heat, people were enthusiastic to see Sanders speak.
Jaxine Corum, 60, volunteered at the event and has also been housing young canvassers visiting Iowa for the first time. “They’ve come from all over,” she smiles. “Australia, Morocco, California. …They get so jacked up about going outside and meeting people. We try to give them a background of the community so they have an idea of what they may be running into.”
She says that she supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 and that it was harder to choose this time around whom to campaign for, given the large field. She ultimately decided to support the Vermont senator after her daughter Suzanne started volunteering for him.