How a Big Sunday in Iowa Unfolded as the Caucuses Approach – The New York Times

Posted By on January 31, 2020

DES MOINES The weekend is over. The senators on the campaign trail are turning into pumpkins, as Amy Klobuchar put it. And were signing off for the night.

If youre just catching up, you can read an overview of the day here.

Our team of reporters in Iowa will update you throughout the week as Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg campaign uninterrupted and the senators surrogates try to keep the energy up for them on the ground.

And, unlikely though it may sound, things are happening outside of Iowa too. Ashley Judd is campaigning for Elizabeth Warren in New Hampshire, for instance. And dont miss our 20 Questions series with the presidential candidates.

DES MOINES News that President Trump told John Bolton, the former national security adviser, that he wanted to continue freezing aid to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Biden family rippled through the campaign trail in Iowa on Sunday night.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is taking a 6 a.m. flight back to Washington on Monday morning for the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, said that the news, which was based on an unpublished manuscript of Mr. Boltons book, meant Republicans would have to allow for the Senate to hear from more witnesses, including Mr. Bolton.

I dont know how my Republican colleagues cannot call for witnesses, she said at her final event of the day here in front of a standing room-only hall. Senator Romney has called for witnesses, they should all be calling for witnesses.

Speaking at a live town hall here broadcast by Fox News, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., echoed Ms. Klobuchars calls for the Senate to hear more.

Just now, were getting more indications about John Bolton, and what he knew, which is one more reason why, if this is a serious trial, were going to have the witnesses and evidence, Mr. Buttigieg said.

After an event in Marshalltown, Mr. Biden spoke briefly to reporters about Mr. Boltons account. Ive not seen the manuscript, Mr. Biden said. I dont have any idea whats in the book. But if it in fact contradicts Trump, its not a surprise.

Nick Corasaniti reported from Des Moines, and Thomas Kaplan from Marshalltown, Iowa.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa One of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.s go-to arguments on the campaign trail is to stress the need to choose a Democratic presidential nominee who will help candidates down the ballot.

Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, he is deploying some of those down-ballot candidates to vouch for him.

At an event with Mr. Biden in Marshalltown on Sunday, Iowans heard from three freshman House members: Representatives Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, Colin Allred of Texas and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania.

In an effort to appeal to Iowans, Mr. Allred contended that Mr. Biden would have broader appeal in Texas than his Democratic rivals.

I need you to give us, in Texas, Joe Biden, he said. What do I mean by that? Joe Biden puts Texas in play. He absolutely puts Texas in play.

Mr. Allred told the crowd that there were people in his community who are looking for another option.

Joe Biden, he said, is the only person running for president who will get their vote.

WEST DES MOINES Whats it like to be a still-undecided Iowa Democrat eight days before the states first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses?

Ann Clary, a state budget analyst, and Holly Brink, a financial analyst, drove from Waukee to see Pete Buttigieg in West Des Moines Sunday to see if they should support him over the other candidates they are still considering.

Ms. Brink, 54, also likes Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ms. Clary, 55, is considering Ms. Klobuchar and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Im really up in the air, said Ms. Clary. I like what they are saying, but its hard to tell, they are all so similar.

Ms. Brink said she was most concerned with which candidate had the best chance to defeat President Trump in November, yet she conceded she had no idea how to tell who that would be.

Ms. Clary said the decision has cost her sleep.

Sometimes I cant fall asleep at night, she said. I just cant stop thinking about it.

Both said they would eventually back whomever Democrats nominate, though they might not be thrilled about some options.

I might have to hold my nose for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ms. Clary said.

I had to do that last election, Ms. Brink said. I was not a Hillary fan.

Representative Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, a co-chair for Senator Elizabeth Warrens campaign, stumped on her behalf at events in South Carolina this weekend. She said in a phone interview on Sunday that she was not worried about recent poll numbers that showed Ms. Warren was gaining little new support from black voters.

The more people hear her message, the more people she converts, Ms. Pressley said.

I dont put much stock in the polls, she said. Theres a shift occurring, and you cant poll transformation.

A recent poll from ABC/The Washington Post showed Ms. Warren had 9 percent support among black Democrats. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. led the entire field with 51 percent support, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was the only other candidate in double digits, with 15 percent.

Ms. Warren has gained the support of numerous black activists, and she has sought to infuse her policy with special measures to correct a history of discrimination from the government. However, she and some of her rivals have been met with resistance from black Democrats wary of white politicians offering promises of big change.

Ms. Pressley said she was confident that given more time, Ms. Warren would win over black voters just as Ms. Pressley was won over herself.

I dont give anyone anything. Elizabeth Warren earned our endorsement, she said. I watched this campaign unfold, the momentum build, I listened to her vision and I read her policy.

AVENTURA, Fla. Michael R. Bloomberg on Sunday addressed rising anti-Semitism and spoke personally of his Jewish heritage in a speech at a prominent synagogue near Miami, a sign that courting Jewish voters is core to his strategy of building support in Florida.

Mr. Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York City who is running for president, is famously skipping the campaign trail in the four early nominating states, Iowa included choosing instead to stake his presidential bid on the delegate-rich states that vote on Super Tuesday and beyond.

The speech was a rare instance of a major address by a Democratic presidential candidate this cycle that specifically confronted the rise in anti-Semitic attacks across the country. He spoke directly to Jewish Americans who may worry that progressive Democratic front-runners have too sharply criticized Israel or who may dislike some of President Trumps agenda but support his Israel policy.

The violence that has always threatened Israel is rearing its ugly head here in America, with alarming frequency, Mr. Bloomberg said.

The toxic culture the president has created is harming our relationship with Israel, he said. If I am elected, you will never have to choose between supporting Israel and supporting our values here at home.

Mr. Bloomberg not-so-subtly sought to distinguish himself from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is also Jewish and who recently took the lead in Iowa, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll of likely caucusgoers. Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, took aim not only at Mr. Sanderss Israel policy but also at his democratic socialism.

Now, I know Im not the only Jewish candidate running for president, Mr. Bloomberg said in his speech on Sunday afternoon, delivered in a ballroom with a roving blue spotlight and Israeli techno and music by the rapper Pitbull setting the mood. But I am the only one who doesnt want to turn America into a kibbutz. The audience whooped.

But the speech didnt win everyone over. Debbie Picker, who splits her time between Westchester County and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said she was disappointed Mr. Bloomberg hadnt taken questions on Sunday and wanted to know how he planned to elevate his profile in the race.

We pay attention because were Jewish New Yorkers who were there for him for 12 years, she said. But if you were to go anywhere outside of the New York Metro and Miami Metro, I dont think people know him.

Read more here.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is one of just two leading Democratic candidates who wont soon have to return to Washington for the impeachment trial. Yet that hasnt stopped him from enlisting enough surrogates to rival his, well, rivals.

He appeared Sunday night with a trio of freshman lawmakers whove endorsed his campaign: Representatives Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, Colin Allred of Texas and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania.

Also at that event, his campaign debuted its smallest but perhaps cutest surrogate yet: Jake Vilsack, the grandson of former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, a coveted endorser who is supporting Mr. Biden.

Calling the 10-year-old his secret weapon, Mr. Biden invited the elementary school student to say a few words.

I hope that Joe Biden has good luck in this coming caucus and the rest of his campaign, he said. Its going to be a long road but I think he can do it.

Mr. Biden marveled at his ability to address a crowd, saying his childhood stutter would have prevented him from making similar remarks at Jakes age.

Ten years old! Mr. Biden exclaimed. Ten years old!

STORM LAKE, Iowa Even as Bernie Sanders has surged in Iowa with eight days to go, his closing argument has hardly differed from his core message: He is fighting for the working class.

But as he races around the state, he is also focusing more than ever on voter turnout: At stop after stop on Saturday and Sunday, he has made the case that he will only win here on Feb. 3 and in the general election if a high number of people actually vote.

You win elections, especially against Trump, by having the largest voter turnout in the history of this country, he said in Storm Lake on Sunday. We are the campaign to do that.

He went on: I dont care about what polls say today, he said. What matters is voter turnout.

And on: Tonight, I am asking you to do everything you can to make sure that the 2020 Iowa caucus has the larger voter turnout in the history of the Iowa caucus.

Over the course of six stops this weekend (and with only one to go), Mr. Sanders did not take a single question from a voter.

Turning out people who do not usually participate in the political process has long been one of Mr. Sanders key strategies. In Iowa, he is hoping in particular to drive working class voters, Latino voters and young people to caucus sites.

Predicting caucus turnout has become something of a parlor game among Democratic officials and campaign staffers in the state many are forecasting turnout that at least exceeds what it was in 2016.

The biggest turnout for one partys presidential caucus was in 2008, when some 240,000 people participated in the Democratic contest that featured Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado told New Hampshires WMUR television station on Sunday that he would campaign only in New Hampshire through the primary there even on the day of the Iowa caucuses.

The first day I came to New Hampshire, I felt a connection here, partly because Colorado and New Hampshire have very similar politics thats basically balanced, with a third Republican, a third Democratic and a third independent, Mr. Bennet told Jess Moran, a WMUR reporter. And I think the agenda that Ive developed over the last 10 years is one that is resonating with people here.

In the four debate-qualifying polls of New Hampshire voters released this month, Mr. Bennet received 0, 0, 1 and 2 percent support. He received 0 percent support in all four comparable Iowa polls.

As one of four senators still in the presidential race, Mr. Bennets time on the campaign trail will be limited no matter which state hes spending it in. Like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, he will have to spend most of the coming week in Washington for President Trumps impeachment trial.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bennet did not immediately respond to a request for more details on his upcoming schedule.

DES MOINES The electorate in Iowa is overwhelmingly white, but on Sunday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. fielded a question that he was eager to answer: What has he done to reach out to people of color during his presidential campaign?

Mr. Biden, whose strong support from black voters is one of his greatest political advantages in the Democratic primary race, did not hesitate.

I was raised in the black church politically not a joke, Mr. Biden said, recalling his time not long after law school when he went to work as a public defender.

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, was speaking at an event in Des Moines hosted by the Des Moines branch of the N.A.A.C.P. as well as two local organizations, Creative Visions and Urban Dreams.

Mr. Bidens strong support from black voters may not play a significant role in the Iowa caucuses, but it is of vital importance in future nominating contests, particularly in South Carolina.

I know a lot of folks out here were wondering, why does Biden get such overwhelming support from the African-American community? Mr. Biden said on Sunday. Because thats what Im part of. Thats where my political identity comes from. And its the single most loyal constituency Ive ever had.

AMES, Iowa It was, well, a re-endorsement, one that David Johnson, the former Iowa state senator who disavowed the Republican Party after it nominated Donald J. Trump in 2016, drove more than two hours to make.

I was at the Iowa Farmers Union, and I heard Senator Klobuchar was going to be there, Mr. Johnson said, recalling watching her speech one day 14 months ago and pulling her aside afterward to relay his impression.

Ive been with her ever since.

Mr. Johnson had created some confusion when, on Saturday night, he introduced former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., as the next president, a seeming endorsement for the 38-year-old candidate.

But Mr. Johnson said he was just being polite, and that he still backed Ms. Klobuchar.

I live way up on the border, so shes my neighbor, Mr. Johnson said. Im just being neighborly.

So he came far from home to introduce Ms. Klobuchar to a crowd of more than 400 packed into the back of a barbecue restaurant here on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

The senator said she was cramming in a full day of campaigning before midnight, when, she said, I turn into a pumpkin and I go back to Washington for the impeachment trial of President Trump.

During the event, Ms. Klobuchar also picked up the endorsement of Ross Wilburn, a member of the Iowa House and a former mayor of Iowa City. It was Ms. Klobuchars 17th legislative endorsement in Iowa.

She spent more than 10 minutes of her stump speech on health care, drawing an unstated contrast to candidates advocating Medicare for all.

The Affordable Care Act is nearly 10 points more popular than the guy in the White House right now, she said. So Im not in favor of blowing it up.

Peppered throughout her remarks were constant reminders of her Midwest ties, and that her home state shares its southern border with Iowa.

To punctuate her pitch to lower drug prices like other countries have done, Ms. Klobuchar put her own spin on Tina Feys famous impression of Sarah Palin.

In Minnesota, she said, dryly smirking, we can see Canada from our porch.

In an interview this weekend, Joseph R. Biden Jr. accused Bernie Sanders of being inconsistent on Social Security, stoking fresh tension between the two leading candidates over an issue of great significance to older Iowa caucusgoers.

The two septuagenarian contenders have clashed over the subject repeatedly in recent days as Mr. Sanders seeks to make inroads into Mr. Bidens standing with older voters. The former vice president was asked about their disagreement in an interview with New Hampshires WMUR News 9 that aired this weekend.

What about those Democratic voters who say that Bernie has been consistent this whole time? asked Adam Sexton, WMURs political director.

Well, he hasnt been, Mr. Biden replied. But Im not going to attack Bernie. He has been he hasnt even been consistent on Social Security. But heres the deal. Ive laid out clearly what my plan for Social Security is. Im going to increase Social Security benefits.

It wasnt immediately clear what potential inconsistencies Mr. Biden was referring to. Both men currently support strengthening the program.

Mr. Sanders has been critical of Mr. Bidens past support for Social Security freezes and other deals that alarmed Social Security advocates at the time.

In a statement Sunday night, Mr. Sanderss campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, ticked through Mr. Bidens record on those measures.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders fought those efforts every single step of the way, and has fought his entire career to protect and expand Social Security, Mr. Shakir said, also saying that Mr. Biden continues trying to hide his efforts to help Republicans cut Social Security.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden has said the Sanders campaign is mischaracterizing part of his record on the issue.

Mr. Sanders, who has generally supported increasing funding for the program and opposed cuts, has still faced scrutiny for his use of the term adjustments years ago, a phrase some have taken to suggest cuts to the program, though his campaign denied that was his intent in a Bloomberg News report last week.

The Vermont senator has edged Mr. Biden in several recent early-state surveys, including in a New York Times/Siena College Iowa poll released Saturday. But that same poll found that Mr. Biden maintained a strong advantage with older likely caucusgoers.

DES MOINES Caucuses are demanding under the best of circumstances. You have to get to a specific room at a specific time. Seats are scarce. You have to physically realign as nonviable candidates are eliminated. The process can last for hours, and you cant leave early.

But for many Iowans with disabilities, caucusing isnt just difficult: Its impossible.

If a precinct is overcrowded, as many are, people in wheelchairs cant safely navigate. If caucusgoers arent allowed to leave the room to use the bathroom, people with digestive diseases like Crohns simply cant participate. And there is no remote participation option, which excludes people who are immunocompromised or too sick to leave their homes people who could otherwise vote by absentee ballot in primary or general elections.

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How a Big Sunday in Iowa Unfolded as the Caucuses Approach - The New York Times

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