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Iowa Caucuses: Many Unsure Which Democratic Candidate To Back


Some Iowa Democrats are unsure which candidate to support. They're running short of time, since Iowa's caucuses are one week away. Rachel and David will be hosting this program from Iowa then, by the way. Yesterday, all the top candidates were in Iowa, although voter Sue Jarnagin (ph) of Ames, Iowa, remains undecided.

SUE JARNAGIN: It's just really stressful to try and make a decision. I feel like I have so much responsibility. Like, each one of us in Iowa has so much responsibility to make the right decision. And yet we don't know what the right decision is. So what do we do?

INSKEEP: She spoke with NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea, who is now on the line from Des Moines. Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Is Sue Jarnagin representative of what you're hearing?

GONYEA: I went to four candidate events in four cities over the last two days. And all over the state, I heard people saying things just like that. I talked to her at a Sanders rally in Ames. You know, they tell you about the calculations they're making. They're asking, OK, whose beliefs match my own? But more than anything, then, you hear them trying to figure out who can beat President Trump, who can carry Wisconsin, who can carry Michigan or Pennsylvania. And you didn't used to hear that kind of gaming it out for months ahead at this stage in Iowa.

So, Steve, I want you to hear another voice here. At an Amy Klobuchar town hall Sunday morning, I talked to 38-year-old Mia Fields (ph). She is a businesswoman, and she's leaning - leaning toward Joe Biden, but continues at this stage to check out others, like Klobuchar. She told me it is more about Trump and beating him than it is about any differences between Democratic candidates.

MIA FIELDS: I think Trump is a very dangerous, dangerous president. I think that he - you know, and I've been watching the impeachment hearings, too. I think that if Trump is in there for another four years, it could be absolutely disastrous. I think, to a lot of other countries, we're almost viewed as a joke and not being as strong as what we were, and that's a problem.

GONYEA: So how do you - given that - how do you look at this whole Democratic nominating process?

FIELDS: My biggest thing is who can beat him.

GONYEA: So that's Mia Fields in Waterloo. She told me it's more about Trump than any of the differences between Democratic candidates.

INSKEEP: Is it certain that all the Democrats that you talk with are going to support whoever may be the nominee, despite some bitter differences between some of them?

GONYEA: You hear a little bit of - say, at a Bernie Sanders rally - no, it's Bernie or nothing. But I have to say I'm hearing a lot less of that than I heard four years ago. More so, voters tell me they think Democrats are going to come together, no problem, around the nominee - that you're hearing this - you know, these spats between candidates now, and some of it feels personal, and some of it may feel bitter. But they say once it comes down to the general election and it's a Democratic nominee versus Donald Trump, people have no worries about the party coming together.

INSKEEP: What do the Democratic candidates do when they look at this Iowa poll that says around 60% of the actual caucus voters may be undecided?

GONYEA: A lot of them have been on the ground here with their volunteers a year already, and it comes down to the last seven days. So what do you need to do? You try to have some personal contact with voters by the candidates themselves, maybe at an event or by somebody knocking on the door or a phone call - and better if it comes from a friend or someone they've had some contact with, or they won't pick it up. If you don't like television ads, man, just turn off your TV. And then, on top of that, we've got the impeachment trial, and that means the senators - Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar - are stuck in Washington all week at a really crucial time. That does leave the state to Biden and Buttigieg and also Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, who all have a full slate of events trying to, you know, work that advantage and make it happen in the last seven days.

INSKEEP: Yeah, I guess we should mention the reason we could say all the candidates were in Iowa yesterday is because yesterday was Sunday, which is the only free day in the trial schedule. Don, thanks so much.

GONYEA: It's my pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.