The final sprint to the Iowa caucuses

By Kyle Blaine and Jessica Estepa, CNN

Updated 7:52 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020
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12:49 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Klobuchar celebrates her return to Iowa

From CNN's Dan Merica, Kyung Lah and Jasmine Wright

Amy Klobuchar wasted no time getting back to Iowa on Friday night, chartering a late-night flight from Washington, DC, to the Quad Cities to begin her final all-out through the state.

After arriving near midnight, Klobuchar celebrated being back in the Hawkeye State at her first event on Saturday, telling voters at a brewery in Bettendorf that she had “been a little busy lately.”

“I had planned to be here all week in Iowa. We had a whole plan,” Klobuchar said. “But instead, duty called.”

Klobuchar told CNN in an interview after the event that voters “want a president who can do a lot of things at once.”

“And here I am at a brewery on Saturday morning, OK,” she said.

Iowa is critical to Klobuchar's campaign. Klobuchar’s team understands that there is significant volatility inside the Iowa electorate, with many caucusgoers making up their minds this weekend on who to back in Monday’s caucuses.

“I was gone this week. I said, ‘You know what, okay, I'm not here, but it's because I'm in the arena, because I'm getting things done,’” Klobuchar said. “And I think that's what the people of this country want.”

Klobuchar’s team believes the senator’s success on caucus night hinges on her success in rural counties, especially those along the border between Iowa and Minnesota, the senator’s home state. The team will also be watching the Quad Cities in Eastern Iowa and Council Bluffs in Western Iowa.

"It feels like we have the momentum, which we know we have,” Klobuchar said, pointing to a series of newspaper editorial board endorsements she has picked up. “We are punching way above our weight�� We clearly have a surge going here.”

When asked if she still considered herself an underdog, the senator responded: “Uh, yeah.”

12:10 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

No really, it is all about turnout 

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

It’s the biggest question hanging in the cool Iowa air: How many voters will show up for the caucuses on Monday night?

Turnout is the pivotal piece to any election equation, of course, but for the caucuses it’s even more critical. Mobilizing supporters to the nearly 1,700 individual gatherings across the state is a test of a campaign’s organizing muscle.

The high water mark for attendance is 2008. Nearly 240,000 Iowans took part in the caucuses on the Democratic side, which helped seal Barack Obama’s victory. The Obama campaign spent a year expanding the universe of caucus goers, attracting flocks of voters who had never before taken part in the ritual.

So will the 2020 turnout surpass that tally? Most campaigns are now saying no — at least publicly.

Advisers to several candidates and Iowa Democratic Party officials believe the turnout will likely be between 170,000 (the 2016 attendance) and 240,000.

“It’s hard to see 300,000,” Mike Halle, a senior adviser to Pete Buttigieg, told reporters Saturday at a roundtable hosted by Bloomberg News. He believes turnout will be above 170,000 and below 240,000.

The turnout will be the first window into just how enthusiastic Democrats are about their field as they begin the task of finding a nominee to defeat President Donald Trump.  

The question is particularly critical to the success of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is building on his organization from 2016. 

At his campaign stops in the closing days of the Iowa race, Sanders bluntly tells his supporters as much. He said his fortunes will be known "very early" on caucus night.

"If the voter turnout is small and low we lose,” Sanders said earlier this week in Sioux City. “If the voter turnout is high, we’re going to win.”

Read the full story here.

11:49 a.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Klobuchar nabs endorsement from California Rep. Linda Sánchez 

From CNN’s Jasmine Wright and Kyung Lah

Sen. Amy Klobuchar nabbed an endorsement on Saturday from outside of Iowa just two days before the caucuses.

California Rep. Linda Sánchez threw her support behind Klobuchar, according to a campaign spokesperson. Sanchez served as the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus in the 115th Congress.

“Our number one priority in this election is defeating Donald Trump and Senator Amy Klobuchar is the best candidate to take him on,” said Sánchez. “Amy not only has bold, progressive policies and an optimistic economic agenda, she also has a proven track record of delivering real results as I’ve seen in the Senate. Amy will be a President for all of America and I’m proud to support her in this campaign.”

11:44 a.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Biden campaign talking points show focus on spat with Sanders over Social Security

From CNN's Dan Merica, Eric Bradner and Arlette Saenz

Joe Biden’s campaign distributed talking points to surrogates ahead of the Iowa caucuses this week that signal a campaign concerned about spinning a recent spat with Bernie Sanders as the former vice president defending himself and not attacking the Vermont senator.

The 20-page document, which was provided to CNN, was sent ahead of an influx of Biden surrogates headed to Iowa this weekend, days ahead of the state’s critical caucuses. The guide includes details on all of Biden’s policy positions but leads with key questions that surrogates could be confronted with, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, impeachment and the tense back-and-forth between Biden and Sanders over Social Security.

The Biden campaign declined to comment on the content of the talking points.

The guide argues that Biden “didn’t go negative on Bernie” and was just “responding to attacks on his record.”

“The truth is – Bernie and his allies have viciously distorted Joe's record on Social Security in robocalls, digital ads, and email blasts,” the talking points argue. “Fact checkers called his attack false. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called it a flat-out lie.”

They add:

“Joe's campaign is correcting the record to clarify his position on Social Security, not attacking Bernie. It’s is making clear what Joe has committed: as president, he'll not only protect and defend Social Security, but boost benefits for the most vulnerable.”

Biden and Sanders, ahead of the caucuses, have been in a heated back-and-forth that began with their positions on Social Security but devolved into Biden questioning Sanders’ allegiance to the Democratic Party, an accusation he later walked back.

Biden’s campaign is also seeking to downplay the growing operation that Bloomberg has built in key Super Tuesday states that will vote on March 3. 

“Mike Bloomberg has spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on ads alone, and Joe Biden is still in the lead, nationally and in Super Tuesday states,” the document reads. “After the first four states vote, Joe will have demonstrated that he has the broadest, most diverse coalition, and that he’s the strongest candidate to beat Donald Trump.” 

The talking points also directed surrogates on how to talk about Biden’s son, Hunter, and the possibility of him testifying before the Senate impeachment trial. That possibility is now moot given Republicans won a vote in the Senate on Friday to have no witnesses during the trial.

11:14 a.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Rashida Tlaib boos Hillary Clinton at Sanders Iowa event

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib booed Hillary Clinton during a campaign event for Sen. Bernie Sanders Friday in a moment that highlighted the raw feelings still present from the 2016 primary campaign. 

As a key surrogate, Tlaib -- along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Ilhan Omar -- was in Iowa stumping for Sanders, as the Vermont senator was stuck in Washington for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. 

During a panel discussion with the three progressive congresswomen, the moderator raised Clinton's attack against Sanders that "nobody likes him." Hours earlier, Clinton on a podcast with the daughter of a former donor had, again, criticized Sanders and his supporters for not doing enough to unify the party after the last primary.

The moderator tried to quell the crowd's jeers, saying "we're not going to boo," when the Michigan congresswoman interjected.

"No, no, I'll boo," Tlaib said, as she then led the crowd in boos.

"You all know I can't be quiet. No, we're going to boo," she said. "That's alright. The haters will shut up on Monday when we win."

In a statement on Twitter Saturday, Tlaib said she allowed her "disappointment" over Clinton's latest comments about Sanders and his supporters "get the best of me," but stopped short of apologizing.

Read the full story here.

9:54 a.m. ET, February 1, 2020

She was stuck in DC. But Elizabeth Warren worked the phones trying to get final Iowa endorsements

From CNN's MJ Lee and Jeff Zeleny

Elizabeth Warren has been busy trying to snatch up last-minute endorsements in Iowa with the caucuses just around the corner.

But rather than making that outreach in person in the Hawkeye State, Warren has been doing it over the phone from Washington, DC, where she and her colleagues in the Senate have been serving as jurors in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

The Massachusetts Democrat has been squeezing in brief phone calls to local elected officials, power brokers and activists in Iowa by utilizing moments when she can step away from the Senate floor, where cell phones and other electronics have been strictly prohibited during impeachment hearings.

One of those calls on Thursday was to former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky -- and it worked.

Read the full story here.

9:52 a.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Biden calls Iowa a "toss up"

From CNN's Arlette Saenz, Sarah Mucha and Jeff Simon

Joe Biden played the role of pundit after his event in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, answering questions from CNN about what a second, third or fourth place finish in Iowa would mean for him.

“Well there’s a big difference between second and fourth,” he said.

I’ve been saying from the beginning I think we’re gonna do well here. I think it’s gonna be really tight no matter how it works out. It’s been bunched up, it’s gonna remain bunched up I think.”

He added, “I view this as, you know, four sets here. I really mean it. I think that the two caucuses and the two first primaries -- I view them as a package, and how you come out of there I think is gonna determine what your shots are. So I feel good about it.” 

Biden then argued that Iowa isn’t “as consequential” as years past, noting that his metric of success is whether a candidate can “represent every aspect of the Democratic Party.” He labeled Iowa a “toss up” and described New Hampshire as a “real uphill race”

“I just think it’s a different year in that I think the measure, you all won’t do it now, and I don’t mean it in a bad way, but I think what you’re going to have to measure is who can represent every aspect of the Democratic Party. And that’s why I think it matters how you – it’s not as consequential in one sense as it has been in years past. Because I feel very strongly that we have a great firewall in South Carolina. I think we’re in a position where we’ll do very well in Nevada, I think it’s gonna be a real uphill race as it always is for a non-New Englander in New Hampshire. And I think it’s gonna be just a toss up here. It has been all the way along,” he said.

Biden continued: “But look, I’m not being a pundit about it – you guys will make those judgments about it. I’m not being a wise guy, but it’s about, I think, the party understand and folks understand that you gotta be able to represent the whole country."