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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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. 

3:34 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Jane Sanders takes a "wife's prerogative" 

From CNN's Maeve Reston

Jane Sanders speaks during a campaign event in Creston, Iowa, on January 31.
Jane Sanders speaks during a campaign event in Creston, Iowa, on January 31. Tom Brenner/Getty Images

The partners of the 2020 candidates have been the voices that have swayed voters more than a few times in this campaign. Jill Biden has been a particularly effective closer for her husband, Joe Biden, and in Indianola on Saturday, Jane Sanders took her turn in that role. 

Jane Sanders told the crowd at Simpson College that she was going to take “a little wife’s prerogative” to talk about her husband from a personal point of view. She noted that she met him in 1981 when he was running for mayor and he was a community organizer. 

“The first time I felt that he spoke to my heart, that he embodied everything that I ever believed in,” she said. “I can tell you today that almost 40 years later he still does during this campaign.” 

She also described the transformation she often sees in her husband’s crowds after he begins speaking. Some voters arrive serious, intellectual and skeptical in their stance, she said. 

 But when he begins speaking, she’s watches them relax: “I see such a softening of weight. ‘He gets me. He gets the struggles that I’m facing,’ ” she said, describing her interpretation of that softening.

“And more often than not, we see a lot more supporters at the end of his speech than we do at the beginning — so hopefully that continues on, and quite a bit on Monday,” she continued. “As someone who’s known him for all this time, I can tell you he is as honest as the day is long. And consistent as the sun rising.”

3:31 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Sanders tries to turn down the heat in Iowa return

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Sanders speaks at Simpson College in Indianola on Saturday.
Sanders speaks at Simpson College in Indianola on Saturday. Tom Brenner/Getty Images

When Bernie Sanders took the stage here in Indianola Saturday afternoon, he began his speech with a clear message to Democrats worried about the latest signs of a brewing crack-up in the party.

After ripping President Donald Trump, Sanders paused to offer a kinder reflection on the Democratic field.

"I believe very strongly, and no disrespect to my Democratic colleagues who are competing for the nomination, they're friends of mine," Sanders said. "But I believe that we are the strongest campaign to defeat Trump."

Before he went on to make his case, though, Sanders stopped himself -- again -- and offered another conciliatory note.

"Not to say that we are the only campaign (who can beat Trump)," he said. "And by the way, let me say this so there is no misunderstanding -- and I believe I speak for all of the other Democrats competing in this primary -- certainly, I hope that we're going to win, but if we do not win, we will support the winner and I know every other candidate will do the same. We are united in understanding that we must defeat Donald Trump."

Sanders has, from the opening gun of the primary, been forward in affirming his plans to back the eventual nominee, no matter who it is. But lingering factional disputes -- which have been stoked by a recent run of criticism from Hillary Clinton -- have tested efforts, and the desire on both sides of the ideological party’s divide, to put the memories of 2016 to rest.

2:14 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Buttigieg: "The less 2020 resembles 2016, the better"

From CNN's Donald Judd

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks in Waterloo, Iowa on February 1.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks in Waterloo, Iowa on February 1. Win McNamee/Getty Images

As former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg barnstorms Iowa in the final stretch before the caucuses on Monday night, he’s making an explicit pitch to Iowans afraid of repeating the infighting that defined the bruising 2016 Democratic Primary.

“We need a fundamentally new approach and a focus on the future, we can't afford to get tied up in the politics of the past,” Buttigieg told a room of Iowans in Waterloo, his first of five stops across the early caucus state on Saturday. “And I'm not just talking about the distant past. I'm talking about the recent past. I think we've all seen some of the tensions that are emerging among those who share the same values, but maybe a different approach.”

Surrogates for Bernie Sanders have leapt to criticize former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over comments that “nobody likes” the Vermont senator; Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib booed Clinton during a campaign event for Sanders on Friday.

Buttigieg hopes Iowans agree with him: “In our party and in our country, the less 2020 resembles 2016, the better.”

“It's time to do something different," he said. "This is a respectful difference of approach among people who share the same values, share the same goals and must be committed, the day we have our nominee to rally around that nominee whoever it is, and make sure that we win.”

1:47 p.m. ET, February 1, 2020

Who is in the crowd at Sanders’ Indianola event? A lot of Australians

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Thirty-five Australian students attended Sen. Bernie Sanders' first event in Iowa on Saturday.

The University of Adelaide students have been in the state for three weeks learning about the caucuses as part of a course on the divided nature of American politics.

The group, which is part of a program partnered with Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, has also seen candidates Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang. They hope to also see Elizabeth Warren.

“We’re staying on campus. We’re participating in classes. The staff have just been amazing,” Laura Cistanzo, 20, told CNN.

Emma Bria, 20, told CNN she thinks “it’s good that the average voter has so many opportunities to interact with someone who could be their president.”

And for Lucy Small-Pearce, 28, learning about the caucuses has shed light on how Iowans interact.

"We are learning a lot about the Iowa caucuses, and, for me, I really like that they have to stand up in front of their neighbors, and talk to their neighbors, and really interact, and I think that’s something a lot of places are missing in terms of division in political systems,” she said. “A lot of that is because we don’t talk to each other. We don’t have to see people that disagree with us or talk to them or hear them, and I think that is a really important part of the Iowa caucuses.”

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.