Iowa Caucus 2020 | Minnesota Public Radio News

Iowa Caucus 2020

Coverage of the Iowa Caucuses from a Minnesota perspective.

  • The Scene From Polk County Precinct 13

    Shortly before proceedings officially kicked off, over 100 participants had filled the gymnasium at Moore Elementary School in Polk County, Iowa Public Radio reporter John Pemble estimated. They clustered in groups according to candidate preference, with a sizable number standing in the “uncommitted” group.

    Then came a fundraising pitch to support the Iowa Democratic Party. Envelopes circulated as participants were encouraged to donate $46 — a nod to the presidential position that the candidates are vying to fill — or however much the participants could.


    Also making their way through the gymnasium were presidential preference cards, passed out by a volunteer. Caucusgoers stood with hands raised, lowering them in exchange for the pieces of paper.

    — Rachel Treisman

  • Party says app mishap won't hinder Iowa caucuses

    Iowa Democratic Party officials say an early issue with a mobile app designed to report results will not hinder the Iowa caucus process.

    Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said Monday that there were some reports from precinct officials that they couldn’t log into the app during the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

    He said a team of troubleshooters is working to address any technical issues.

    He added that the party has alternate ways for precincts to send in results, including a hotline.

    “We’ve had an app before, but we’ve also had a hotline before, and folks have had the option to do that, and so we expect that we’ll be able to report the results in a timely manner this evening,” he said.

    The app was designed to allow for the quick filing of results, and the issue appears to be the result of different PINs used for early testing and caucus night logins. — Associated Press

  • Iowa Dems split on best challenger for Trump

    Iowa Democrats are fiercely united by the goal of unseating President Donald Trump, but they were sharply divided Monday over which candidate was best equipped to do so, according to the AP VoteCast survey.

    As the first of the nation’s presidential contests, Iowa has played a historic role in gauging which Democrats are the most competitive frontrunners. The results from AP VoteCast show how difficult it can be to join together an increasingly diverse coalition of voters whose common cause rests on their fury with the president.

    Fully 88% said electability was very important for the Democratic nominee, compared to the 65% who said having the best policy ideas is highly important.

    “Hey, everybody, if you want to beat Trump, come over to (Joe) Biden’s camp,” yelled Jeff Erickson, a retired postal worker, as people filed into Hoover High School in Des Moines.

    Yet many of the Democratic presidential candidates have possible weaknesses when challenging Trump. Just over 4 in 10 Iowa voters said it would be harder for a woman to unseat the president. Almost 6 in 10 said a gay candidate would have more difficulty defeating Trump, a potential risk for former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Roughly the same share said a nominee with “strongly liberal views” would also face a harder time, while close to half said a nominee older than 75 — former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — would have a tougher time versus Trump.

    Nearly two-thirds said it was more important for them to vote for a candidate who will fundamentally change how the political system works, compared with one who will restore Washington to the way it was before Trump’s inauguration.

    AP VoteCast is a survey of more than 2,800 voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Democratic caucuses in Iowa, conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

    Close to half of voters under 30 supported Sanders as their top choice. Biden got the backing of almost 3 in 10 voters who were 65 and older.

    Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's support was somewhat stronger among women than men. She and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also saw slightly more support from college graduates, compared with those without a degree. Voters without a college degree were slightly more likely to support Biden and Sanders.

    Iowa Democrats who identified themselves as very liberal were somewhat more likely be in Sanders' camp, while the moderates clustered with Biden, Klobuchar and Buttigieg.

    There are policy differences among the contenders. Candidates such as Sanders and Warren have embraced bolder changes such as universal health care through the government and a wealth tax. Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar have called for more incremental shifts in policy.

    About 4 in 10 ranked health care as the most important issue facing the country, while about 3 in 10 identified climate change as the top. Democratic voters were largely supportive of government programs that would improve access to health insurance coverage as well as taxation of carbon emissions in order to limit climate change.

    “Bernie is the candidate who is focusing on the big changes that are going to impact the future, rather than the right now,” said University of Iowa junior Allison Steger, as she waited to caucus for Sanders at the student union in Iowa City.

    Iowa Democrats share an abiding distaste for Trump. An overwhelming majority of caucusgoers — about 8 in 10 — were “angry" with the Trump administration. Another 14% said they were “dissatisfied, but not angry.”

    Even though the Senate impeachment trial appears certain to close this week with an acquittal for Trump, nearly 8 in 10 Democrats said they judged the impeachment process to be “worth it.” Not surprisingly, nearly every Iowa Democrat said the ability to beat Trump was an important quality for a presidential nominee.

    The solid economy, with unemployment at a half-century low, was an afterthought for Iowa Democrats, with just about 1 in 10 saying the economy was the top issue facing the nation. Trump has been rooting his reelection efforts around the economy’s growth, yet few Iowa Democrats seem willing to reward him for an expansion that began under his predecessor.

    Democrats in Iowa do not feel they're benefiting much from the growing economy. Roughly two-thirds of Iowa Democrats describe their own financial situations as “holding steady.” Slightly more say they are falling behind than say they are getting ahead.

    Nearly 9 in 10 described the economy as very or somewhat unfair, a possible sign that many Democrats are nervous about the growing concentration of wealth and power with the top 1% of U.S. households.

    The concerns about medical care, the fate of the planet and inequality are reflected in overwhelming support among Iowa Democrats for a presidential candidate who could transform the U.S. government.

    Iowa Democrats under age 45 favored fundamental change by roughly 3 to 1. About two-thirds of those age 45 to 64 also considered fundamental change to be the better approach. But voters over 65 were closely divided in which they preferred.

    Significant change could come from how Americans pay for health insurance. Seven in 10 backed a single-payer health care plan, which would shift all Americans to government-based insurance instead of private plans. Almost 9 in 10 support a proposal for people having a public option to receive health care through the government.

    On climate change, close to 9 in 10 Iowa Democrats support taxing carbon-based fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. Nearly half were strongly in favor of the proposal.

    — Josh Boak and Hannah Fingerhut Associated Press

  • Caucus voting underway; Iowa may clarify Democratic field

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Caucus voting began across Iowa Monday night as Democrats balanced their desire for fundamental change with their craving to defeat President Donald Trump in the opening contest of the 2020 presidential primary season.

    Nearly a dozen White House contenders were still vying for the chance to take on Trump in November, although Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses were expected to provide some clarity for what has been a muddled nomination fight for much of the last year.
    As the evening caucuses opened their doors, there were signs of major enthusiasm. Outside Iowa City's Englert Theatre, long lines stretched a block in two directions and  organizers predicted delays of an hour or longer.

    By day's end, tens of thousands of Democrats were to have gathered at community centers, high school gyms and more than 1,600 other caucus locations in the premiere of more than 50 contests that will unfold over the next five months. The caucuses were rendering the first verdict on what the party stands for in the age of Trump — and who it feels is best positioned to take on the
    Republican president, whom Democratic voters are desperate to beat this fall. 
    One unsurprising development: Trump won the Republican caucus, a largely symbolic victory given that he faced no significant opposition. 
    For Democrats, the moment was thick with promise for a party that has seized major gains in states since Trump won the White House in 2016. But instead of clear optimism, a cloud of uncertainty and deepening intraparty resentment hung over Monday's election as the prospect of an unclear result raised fears of a long and divisive primary fight in the months ahead.
    "I'm the one who can pull our party together," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told supporters on a telephone call before voting began, suggesting her rivals could not. They said they were the ones to bring unity.
    Polls suggested that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might have a narrow lead, but any of the top four candidates — Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — could score a victory in Iowa's unpredictable and quirky caucus system as organizers prepared for record turnout. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who represents neighboring Minnesota, was also claiming momentum, while outsider candidates including entrepreneur Andrew Yang, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard could be factors.
    "If anybody tells you they know who's going to win, either they've got a whisper from God or they're loony because nobody knows," said Deidre DeJear, who announced her support for Warren on Monday and was the first black woman to win a statewide primary in Iowa.
    Roughly two-thirds of Iowa caucusgoers said supporting a candidate who would fundamentally change 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 compared 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 Trump's election in 2016.
    Not surprisingly, nearly every Iowa Democrat said the ability to beat Trump was an important quality for a presidential nominee. VoteCast found that measure outranked others as the most important quality for a nominee.
    Iowa Democrats also  reported two major issues dominating their thoughts: health care and climate change.
    By midday Monday, a handful of satellite caucuses had already taken place_some thousands of miles away from Iowa. In Glasgow, Scotland, Sanders received the most support from the 19 caucus-goers who attended, while Warren came in second and Buttigieg came in third. No other candidates were viable.
    In Iowa, some 200,000 voters were expected.
    Three senators in the field left Iowa late Sunday to return to the U.S. Capitol for Trump's impeachment trial, but did what they could to keep their campaigns going from Washington. While Warren held her telephone town hall, Klobuchar's husband and daughter appeared at a canvass launch in Des Moines.
    In suburban Des Moines, Buttigieg delivered about 100 volunteers a last shot of encouragement before they stepped out into the chill to knock on doors for him around midday Monday. 
    "We are exactly where we need to be to astonish the political world," he said, igniting cheers for the 38-year-old former midsize-city mayor, who was an asterisk a year ago and is now among the top candidates.
    Meanwhile, Biden and his wife, Jill, delivered pizza Monday to a few dozen volunteers working the phones at his south Des Moines field office.
    "I feel good," he said as he walked in, sporting his signature aviator sunglasses. 
    Iowa offers just a tiny percentage of the delegates needed to win the nomination but plays an outsize role in culling primary fields. A poor showing in Iowa could cause a front-runner's fundraising to slow and support in later states to dwindle, while a strong result can give a candidate much needed momentum.
    The past several Democrats who won the Iowa caucuses went on to clinch the party's nomination. 
    The 2020 fight has played out over myriad distractions, particularly congressional Democrats' push to impeach Trump, which has often overshadowed the primary and effectively pinned several leading candidates to Washington at the pinnacle of the early campaign season.
    Meanwhile, ultrabillionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, is running a parallel campaign that ignores Iowa as he prepares to pounce on any perceived weaknesses in the field come March. 
    The amalgam of oddities, including new rules for reporting the already complicated caucus results, was building toward what could be a murky Iowa finale before the race pivots quickly to New Hampshire, which votes just eight days later.
    New party rules may give more than one candidate an opportunity to claim victory in Iowa, even if they aren't the official winner. 
    For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party reported three sets of results at the end of the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses: a tally of caucus-goers' initial candidate preference; vote totals from the "final alignment" after supporters of lower-ranking candidates were able to make a second choice, and the total number of State Delegate Equivalents each candidate receives. 
    There is no guarantee that all three will show the same winner.
    The Associated Press will declare a winner based on the number of state delegates each candidate wins, which has been the traditional standard. 
    Many of the Democratic presidential candidates have possible weaknesses when challenging Trump, VoteCast found. 
    More than 4 in 10 of Iowa's voters said it would be harder for a woman to unseat the president. Almost 6 in 10 said a gay candidate would have more difficulty defeating Trump, a potential risk for Buttigieg. Roughly the same share said a nominee with "strongly liberal views" would also face a harder time, while close to half said a nominee older than 75 — Biden and Sanders — would have a tougher time versus Trump.
    -- Steve People, Thomas Beaumont and Alexandra Jaffe | Associated Press
  • Caucus Accessibility

    There’s been renewed attention this year on the accessibility of the caucuses. Parents who don’t have child care options; employees who work irregular schedules and can’t take time off; and people with disabilities may struggle to navigate a process that demands a lengthy amount of physical presence, often in a crowded room.

    Iowa is home to more than 3 million people, of which there are about 2 million registered voters, but the most that have participated in a presidential caucus was about 240,000 for the 2008 Democratic contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In 2016, slightly more than 171,000 people turned out for the Democratic caucuses.

    With an eye toward making the caucuses more accessible for all voters, the Iowa Democratic Party has ushered in some changes, including early check-in and a streamlined process for voters to sort out their support for candidates. They’ve also expanded "satellite caucuses."

    But some disability rights advocates say it’s not enough. “It’s like trying to fix your basement foundation with some masking tape,” said Annie Matte, voting outreach coordinator at Disability Rights Iowa. Read more here.

  • A woman reacts to seeing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as she visits a caucus site at Roosevelt High School February 03, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa is the first contest in the 2020 presidential nominating process with the candidates then moving on to New Hampshire. Photo by Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
  • Precinct Captains for Democratic Presidential candidate's former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar prepare for the opening of the Iowa Caucus at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 3, 2020. Photo by Jim Watson | AFP via Getty Images
  • Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a stop at an event in Des Moines, Iowa on February 3, 2020. - Voting in tonight's Iowa caucuses kicks off the presidential nominating season across the United States, and voters need to arrive on time if they want to take part. Photo by Kerem Yucel | AFP
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  • Seven month old Emerson Buckman grabs the nose of Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg during a canvassing launch event on February 03, 2020 in West Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa holds its first in the nation caucuses this evening. Photo by Win McNamee | Getty Images
  • Caucus goers are handed out their first choice cards during caucusing at Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 3, 2020. Photo by JIM WATSON | AFP via Getty Images
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