Iowa Democrats conduct caucus meetings, kicking off search for Trump 2020 challenger


DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – – Iowa Democrats were meeting at caucus sites around the state on Monday, kicking off what could be a bruising months-long national nominating fight to choose a November election challenger to Republican U.S. President Donald Trump.

Voters poured into more than 1,600 schools, community centers and other public locations to render judgment on a field of 11 Democratic contenders led by front-runners Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice President Joe Biden, who have battled for the top in recent Iowa opinion polls.

Long lines and heavy crowds were reported in some locations, but doors to the caucus sites closed at 7 p.m. (0100 GMT on Tuesday), and caucus-goers began organizing for the tally. Results were expected to begin rolling in within a few hours.

GRAPHIC: Inside the Iowa caucuses – here

Mostly white, rural Iowa is the first test in the state-by-state battle to pick a Democratic nominee to face Trump in the Nov. 3 election. After more than a year of campaigning and more than $800 million in spending, the results in Iowa could begin to provide answers for a party desperately trying to figure out how to beat the businessman-turned-president.

Do voters want someone with appeal to centrists, independents and disaffected Republicans, like moderates Biden, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of neighboring Minnesota? Or should the party choose a candidate who energizes its liberal base and could bring out new voters, like progressives Sanders and fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts?

Since voters may register as late as Monday, the caucuses could draw a late surge of attendees, especially among independent voters or Republicans turned off by Trump.

At the caucus sites, voters gathered in groups by candidate preference in a public display of support. If a candidate did not reach a threshold of support of 15% of voters in a caucus, the total needed to be considered viable, that candidates’ supporters were released to back another contender, leading to a further round of persuasion.

“We need a candidate who can bring our party together,” Warren told a caucus at a high school in Des Moines. “We need all our Democrats united. Most of all, you need someone who’s going to inspire people: Democrats, independents and Republicans.”

Even if one candidate wins by a commanding margin in Iowa, Democrats may still lack clear answers as the race moves on to the other three early voting states of New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina later in February.

Whoever remains in the race by Super Tuesday on March 3, when 15 states and territories vote, will also confront billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is skipping the early states in favor of focusing on states rich in delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July.

Sanders, who finished in a virtual dead heat with eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in Iowa during his first presidential run in 2016, surged recently in many Iowa polls to move just ahead of Biden.

Warren and Buttigieg remain within striking distance, and many polls show a big bloc of undecided Iowa voters, creating the potential for upsets and late surges.

GRPAHIC: Calendar of each state’s Democratic nominating contest and its allocated delegates – here


Iowa state party officials are expecting a record turnout, exceeding the nearly 240,000 voters who attended the caucuses in 2008 amid the excitement over Barack Obama’s first presidential candidacy.

A caucus script is seen at the Maple Grove Methodist church in West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. February 3, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Beating Trump was the prime consideration for voters as they entered the caucus, according to a poll of 745 Iowa Democrats conducted by the National Election Pool. Six in 10 caucus-goers said they wanted someone who can beat Trump, while four in 10 wanted a nominee who agrees with them on major issues.

During final rallies across the state, all the contenders made their cases for why they would be the best choice to beat Trump.

Biden touted his experience after decades in elected office, most notably a track record of achieving progressive goals through bipartisan relationships with lawmakers.

“He is scared to death to run against me, and he has good reason to be concerned,” Biden said of Trump during a rally in Muscatine, Iowa. Accompanied by his wife, Jill, Biden greeted supporters and said he was “feeling good” as he delivered pizza to volunteers at a field office in Des Moines on Monday.

Sanders has shrugged off a barrage of attacks from rivals who warn the self-identified democratic socialist would doom the party to defeat against Trump, pointing to polls that show him beating the president.

Warren, who has been slipping in polls, made explicit appeals to women voters.

Buttigieg promised to usher in a new era of optimism in politics and cast himself as an outsider who has not taken part in Washington’s gridlock and is attracting bipartisan support.

“We’re seeing folks come out of the woodwork. Not just diehard Democrats, but some more independent-minded folks, disaffected Republicans looking for a change, wanting to turn the page,” Buttigieg told Fox News Channel on Monday.

Minnesota’s Klobuchar may have the most to lose in neighboring Iowa, where she has spent most of her campaign time and resources, but said she could win conservative areas that Trump captured in 2016.

Slideshow (17 Images)

Republicans were also holding Iowa caucuses on Monday, with Trump, who has around 90 percent support in his party, declared the projected winner by various media outlets.

GRAPHIC: Who is running in 2020 – here

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Joseph Ax, Tim Reid, Simon Lewis, Jarrett Renshaw and Ginger Gibson; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney

Products You May Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *