The final sprint to the Iowa caucuses

By Kyle Blaine and Jessica Estepa, CNN

Updated 7:52 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020
20 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
10:50 a.m. ET, February 2, 2020

Warren campaign volunteers offering caucus night child care

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is offering volunteer-led free child care on Monday night to some caucusgoers with young children. 

The sign-up sheet includes basic questions like the age of the child or children, when they typically go to sleep and whether they have any dietary restrictions, allergies or health issues.

Warren’s caucus night offer comes with an agreement and waiver, which asks parents or caretakers to sign off on their kids’ potentially watching a “movie or video, rated G or PG or equivalent” and an OK to keep them up past their bedtime.

Other terms and conditions include a promise that any little ones left in the campaign’s care aren’t sick and that any drop-offs include all necessary supplies, like diapers. And about that favorite toy? A warning: It could be lost or broken.  

At the end, one final request: “Talk to your child(ren) about the importance of democracy and why we love Elizabeth Warren!”

Warren’s campaign introduced a universal childcare plan last February, along with a calculator that allowed voters to see how much they would save if the program were enacted.

“The difficulty of accessing affordable and high-quality child care puts parents in a bind — forcing them to choose between breaking the budget, cutting back work hours, or settling for lower-quality care,” Warren wrote in a Medium post.

7:58 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Warren calls for party unity: "What's important is we come together"

From CNN's Maeve Reston

John Locher/AP
John Locher/AP

IOWA CITY—Elizabeth Warren responded to the booing of Hillary Clinton by Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib by calling for party unity on Saturday evening as the best offense against Donald Trump.

When asked by CNN’s MJ Lee whether she would discourage that kind of behavior in this primary season, Warren replied that in the primaries “people can get heated.”

“What’s important is we come together as a party. Because we have one really important job, and that is to beat Donald Trump,” Warren said. “Our best chance to do that is when Democrats work together, when we get out there and fight for the things we believe in and we bring as many people as possible into our party to do that.”

Pressed on whether she believed colleagues should not engage in behavior like booing, Warren added that she “would like to see everybody get together here.”

“That’s how we beat Donald Trump and that’s what’s critically important,” she said.

Warren brushed off a question about she would attribute a possible poor showing in Monday’s Iowa caucuses to the fact that she’s been stuck in Washington for Trump’s impeachment trial.

“Look, I am here right now in Iowa reaching out to everyone as best I can,” Warren replied. “This is such an incredible opportunity to be able to meet so many people face to face. That’s what democracy should be all about and I’m doing my best here.” 

She also expounded on her recent remark to a reporter that earlier in the campaign was not the right time to address voters’ worries about bias toward a female nominee.

“I think now is the moment because people have started asking,” Warren said, referring to questions about the electability of a female candidate. “When someone says I’m worried because – although I would vote for a woman – I’m worried whether others would, then I think the best way to deal with that is you deal with it head on.”

The Massachusetts senator said that she always starts with “what the numbers show.”

“The world changed when Donald Trump got elected. Women candidates helped us win back the House in 2018 and won a lot of statehouse races in competitive elections,” she said. “Women candidates have outperformed men candidates.”

“I think it’s important,” she added. “I don’t want to shy away from any issue like that.”

7:42 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Buttigieg: Medicare for All "would mean 100% job cuts" for health insurance workers

From CNN's Donald Judd

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

During a town hall in Anamosa, Iowa, Pete Buttigieg on Saturday hit rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for their support for "Medicare for All."

He argued that the single-payer plan “would mean 100% job cuts for anybody who works at any health insurance company in the country.”

His pushback against Medicare for All came when a woman attending Saturday's town hall told the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor that he appealed to her -- but her friends, supporters of Warren and Sanders, suggested she ask him about whether his work as a consultant for McKinsey "resulted in any job losses."

Buttigieg, who worked at the consulting firm from 2007 to 2009, told the audience, “My specialties were dealing with climate change and grocery pricing, I’m pretty sure neither of those led to any cutbacks ... I did a study for an insurance company once where I was trying to figure out how to make sure that they drew down administrative costs, but I didn’t really work on that side of it.”

“Although,” Buttigieg continued, “it's worth pointing out, actually to your supporters, or your friends (who) are supporting Sen. Warren and Sanders, that the idea of Medicare for All, whether you want it or not, would mean 100% job cuts for anybody who works at any health insurance company in the country. So, I'm working toward a solution that would be a little more balanced.”

Buttigieg was also asked if he’d consider fellow 2020 Democrat Amy Klobuchar as his running mate if he were nominated.

He declined to answer directly: "I have a lot of admiration for her and for each of my competitors, and I think each of them will be doing a lot in leadership in some way, shape, or form going forward, and we'll be excited to team up with them in different ways."

7:03 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Warren: "Medicare for All — and maybe adding our puppies and kittens?"

From CNN's Maeve Reston

John Locher/AP
John Locher/AP

Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar have been trapped in the US Senate all week for the impeachment trial of Donald Trump—and Warren seemed elated to be back on the trail as she addressed a big crowd of hundreds in Iowa City Saturday. 

One question from a child, however, seemed to leave her momentarily at a loss for words. “If you could change your ideas… your idea for Medicare for All, what would you change it to?” he asked.

Warren paused: “Medicare for All—and maybe adding in our puppies and kitties?” she replied to laughter and applause.

An adult in the crowd clarified that the child’s question was really what her plan was for Medicare for All.

“Oh okay,” she responded. “Here’s my plan. Part one is do everything a president can do—I love saying this—all by herself.” She added that she would defend the Affordable Care Act that the “Trump administration is trying to sabotage.” Second, she said she’d use the power of the presidency to lower the cost of commonly used prescription drugs like insulin, Epi Pens and HIV/AIDS drugs. 

Warren answered an array of more typical questions like what kind of leader she will be, how she will forgive student debt, and one from a young woman who asked how she would help kids with special needs.

Mostly Warren just seemed thrilled to be back out of the confines of Washington—giving the crowd her thanks not long after taking the stage.

“You’ve made me a better candidate, and you’ve made me a better president,” she said. 

Speaking of pets, as previously announced, Warren handed off her “selfie line” to her dog Bailey. At the end of the event, an organizer called supporters to line up under the “Win with Warren” banner: “He’s very soft. Come get your pets,” she quipped.

7:03 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon backs Bernie Sanders, says no more 'nostalgia'

From CNN's Cassie Spodak and Kate Sullivan

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon performed at a rally in Iowa for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday in the final sprint to the Monday caucuses in the state. 

“People sometimes say, you know, just play guitar and stick to the, stick to the entertainment business or whatever. And for me, there's no difference. There's no, like, line separating what art is for and a political cause like Senator Sanders,” Vernon told CNN’s Cassie Spodak in an interview before his performance in Clive, Iowa. 

Vernon said: “An artistic leaning, you know, usually comes with a little bit of more of an empathetic leaning in the world. So, I think that empathetic leaning, you know, it steers you right towards, towards Bernie.”

The singer-songwriter described Sanders’ views and proposals as “young ideas” that have “taken hold,” and said Sanders has been consistent on his views for decades. 

He also weighed in on the other 2020 Democrats. Vernon said former Vice President Joe Biden is the “nostalgic choice” and said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren needs to “show more courage.” He said in the past couple of years he had hoped for a Sanders/Warren presidential ticket, but criticized Warren for being “reactionary,” and said Sanders has been more consistent. 

“I feel like Biden is the nostalgic choice because he reminds us of a time that it was, we could kind of like, oh, we voted for (President Barack) Obama, let's go hang our hats up for eight years and like, watch the system work. I don't, I don't like it. I don't feel good about it,” Vernon said. 

Vernon blasted President Donald Trump, but said it is important to “have empathy and to not just blindly hate the guy.”

“To me, (Trump’s) doing the worst things in the world you could possibly be doing as a, as a president, president of the United States,” Vernon said. “But I have questions like, who hurt him for one? Like why is he that way? Like, why does he want to treat people so poorly?”

“People like on the Bernie side or the Democratic side, whoever gets there, we could have that sort of empathy for the people on the other side of the aisle that did vote for Donald Trump in the last election,” he said. 


6:33 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Warren makes photo exception for children and babies

From CNN's MJ Lee

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is skipping photo lines right before the Iowa caucuses because they take a long time and she wants to do as much campaigning as possible in the final stretch.

But her campaign is making one exception for families with children and babies. Spotted outside of Warren’s event in Iowa City: A line of them walking into a back room. A campaign aide confirmed Warren took photos with them before she takes the stage.

4:33 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Buttigieg on his standing in Iowa: "It's a fluid situation"

From CNN's Dan Merica and Donald Judd

Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event on Saturday.
Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event on Saturday. Matt Rourke/AP

Dubuque, Iowa – Pete Buttigieg acknowledged the fluidity of his standing in Iowa on Saturday, telling CNN’s Abby Phillip two days before the caucuses that the electorate is far from solidified and many Iowans are still making up their minds.

The comment admits what top Iowa Democrats have said for weeks but is noteworthy coming directly from a top tier candidate in the state.

“We’ve got phenomenal energy, but also, it's a fluid situation,” Buttigieg told CNN. “People are still making up their minds. That's why it is so important to me to meet eye-to-eye, to be engaging Iowans, asking them to go out on Monday and sending out that message, that the right way to win is also the best way to govern.”

This sentiment explains Buttigieg’s strategy in Iowa: Fill each day with four to five events, regularly crisscrossing the state to hit a mix of urban and rural communities. Buttigieg’s event on Saturday in Dubuque was his 51st since the middle of January.

“One of the things that's on the mind of so many voters, including in the states beyond Iowa, is not just a vision that's right for the country, but demonstrating that we can win,” Buttigieg said. “And the process of proving that my campaign is the best to go on and defeat Donald Trump starts right here in Iowa.” 

Key to Buttigieg’s strategy has been winning over voters in counties that backed Barack Obama but then swung to Trump.

“It is a mistake to take any voter for granted and it is a mistake to write any voter off,” Buttigieg said. “I want to win against Donald Trump and win for big that it sends Trumpism itself into the dust bin of history.”

4:00 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Moderate candidates look to cement position in rural Iowa days before the caucuses

From CNN's Dan Merica and Eric Bradner

For former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the fight for voters in rural Iowa has become a zero-sum game.

The theory goes like this: In counties where voters are more moderate than progressive – traditionally Democrats in counties that Donald Trump won in 2016 – one supporter in their corner on caucus night is a supporter likely denied from the two other top moderates. This is particularly important in small caucus sites where the difference between one or two caucusgoers could be significant.

It signals that these three campaigns will judge their performance on Monday based on how they finish in comparison to the other two.

That is why, in recent weeks, the moderates have ratcheted up their criticisms of one another, with Buttigieg routinely calling out Biden for, in his view, forcing the political conversations to be too backward looking, and Klobuchar calling out the former mayor for suggesting voters who are demoralized by chaos in Washington could turn off the news and watch “cartoons.”

Biden, one of the frontrunners of the race, has largely dismissed the criticisms. “I don't know what Pete’s talking about, he’s a good guy, and that must be a sign that things are getting a little tight,” Biden told reporters this week.

But even Biden couldn’t help himself. “You know I’ve gotten more than 8,600 votes in my life,” he said, knocking the fact that Buttigieg has only won races in South Bend, a small city.

Buttigieg has explained the recent barbs by saying he feels "it's very important for me to stake out the difference in approach” at this point in the campaign.

The Buttigieg campaign has even taken the step of bringing Minnesota Democrats to Iowa to stump for him, a not-so-subtle shot at Klobuchar. Minnesota Rep. Rick Hansen not only introduced Buttigieg in Mason City and New Hampton, but he used his introduction to tout the need for executive experience – something Klobuchar doesn’t have and Buttigieg does – and undercutting the need for legislative experience.

And the voters – many of whom are pulled between the moderates – are noticing.

Take Peggy and Brian Meany, two 50-somethings from Mason City who came to the mayor’s event in the small town last week, even though they were both leaning toward Klobuchar.

“If he just maybe had a little more experience,” Brian said.

But the couple seemed torn as they sat there. Peggy said she was drawn towards Buttigieg’s “energy.”

“She's a very steady middle of the road person and Pete comes up and he can bring the energy,” she said. “I think he could make things happen.”

The Meanys left the event a house divided – at least until Monday. In a sign of the volatility in the race, Peggy decided to stop supporting Klobuchar and is now leaning towards Buttigieg, while Brian is set on Klobuchar.

Iris Evans, a retired insurance company worker in Council Bluffs, said she had an affinity for Klobuchar but is likely going to back Biden because of “trust.”

 “I trust him,” she said. “He’s likable.”

3:20 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

'Furrogate' Bailey to take Warren's place in selfie lines this weekend 

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has taken "zillions" of photos with voters she said Saturday, hosting a "selfie" line (note: they're not really selfies) with supporters at every single one of her campaign events since she announced her campaign for president.

But not today.

For the first time, Warren won't do the "selfie line" that has become synonymous with her campaign. The campaign strategy this weekend is to try to have her visit as many cities in Iowa as possible, and the "selfie line" takes up a lot of time.

Instead, Bailey Warren, her 2-year-old golden retriever and "furrogate," will take photos with willing caucusgoers in his own selfie line at the end of the rallies on Saturday.

"I've been in Washington for a lot of time locked down, and I need to get to a lot of places around Iowa," she told the audience at her Cedar Rapids rally. "So, I hope you'll indulge me. Bailey's gonna stay and do the selfie line. He's been working on his smile he's ready, he's ready."

While Warren has been stuck in DC for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Bailey has been traveling through Iowa, campaigning for his owner with her husband Bruce Mann and her son Alex.