2020 Democrats campaign at the Iowa State Fair

By Elise Hammond, Veronica Rocha and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:15 a.m. ET, August 12, 2019
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7:13 p.m. ET, August 10, 2019

The time-honored tradition of the Iowa State Fair Butter Cow

From CNN's Jessica Estepa

If there's one Iowa State Fair tradition that has held up over the years, it's the butter cow.

The butter statue lives in the coolers of the fairgrounds' Agriculture Building. According to the fair, it consists of 600 pounds of butter shaped over wood, metal, wire and a steel mesh frame.

At the fair on Saturday, people waited in line to see the building, taking in sights of ice sculptures and other exhibits before reaching the main event.

Inside of the coolers sat butter sculptor Sarah Pratt, reshaping butter on a sculpture of a girl. This year's companion butter statues were of the girl and characters from "Sesame Street": Big Bird, Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Elmo and Abby Cadabby.

J.K. Daniels sculpted the first butter cow in 1911, according to the fair.

6:53 p.m. ET, August 10, 2019

Andrew Yang breaks down in tears at gun safety town hall

From CNN's Caroline Kelly and Arlette Saenz

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang became visibly emotional when discussing gun violence prevention with a woman who said she lost her daughter to a stray bullet.

During the Everytown Gun Safety Town Hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Yang was asked a question by a woman named Stephanie about preventing unintentional shootings by children.

Stephanie, who is from Las Vegas, lost her 4-year-old daughter Dayla when she was struck and killed by a stray bullet in March 2011. Her son, Dayla’s twin, witnessed it. 

When Stephanie finished her question, Yang asked the moderator if it was OK if he went to give her a hug. As he came back up on stage, Yang said, “I have a six- and three-year-old boy, and I was imagining…” before getting too choked up to continue.

Fighting back tears for several seconds, he added, “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw,” before breaking down into tears again and telling Stephanie, “I’m so sorry.”

Yang continued to fight his tears, and the audience clapped supportively.

6:00 p.m. ET, August 10, 2019

Kamala Harris links Trump to gun violence

From CNN's Jasmine Wright, Kyung Lah and Deanna Hackney

Sen. Kamala Harris debuted a new line at a gun safety forum in Des Moines today, linking President Donald Trump and his rhetoric to the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

Harris specifically named the El Paso shooting, in which the alleged gunman had railed against Latinos and immigrants.

“People say to me that Donald Trump caused those folks to be killed… Well, no, of course he didn’t pull the trigger, but he certainly had been tweeting out the ammunition,” the California Democrat said.

Harris, when asked about how people of color and gun violence, said America and the media had "come to believe and accept ... the killing of, in particular, young black and brown men in America."

A hush fell over the crowd when the California Democrat began to tell the story of black moms who came to her office after their sons were killed while she was district attorney in San Francisco, and complained to her of a double standard. 

Harris described: “She would cry and say, 'If my child died of cancer, people would have a level of sympathy or empathy, if my child died in a car crash – they would treat me a certain way, but because my child died of gun violence in the streets they are treating him and me like a statistic. And not honoring me or giving me the dignity of a mother who has lost her child.”

Harris said there were different sets of rules for minority communities.

“For so many of these black and brown men, they are considered a statistic when they are killed. And we have to come to terms with that by speaking this truth as it makes some people feel," she said. "And then deal with it in a way that we then respond to the violence in these communities with love and care.”

5:03 p.m. ET, August 10, 2019

Deep fried Twinkies and turkey legs: What to eat at the Iowa State Fair

From CNN's Jessica Estepa

As attendees muscle their way through the crowds of the Iowa State Fair, they have an array of foods to choose from.

Among this year's selection:

  • Deep fried: Twinkies, Oreos, cherry pie, apple pie, mac and cheese, fruit kabobs, deviled eggs
  • Cheese on a stick
  • Popcorn on a stick
  • Bologna on a stick
  • Poutine with your choice of meat, such as pork belly, on top
  • Bomb pop lemonade
2:32 p.m. ET, August 10, 2019

Biden mocks 'tree of liberty' gun rights advocates

From CNN's Eric Bradner

At a gun safety forum in Des Moines, former Vice President Joe Biden mocked advocates of Second Amendment rights who lean on Thomas Jefferson’s famous “tree of liberty” quote.

 “Give me a break,” Biden said. “Carrying concealed weapons? Come on. Come on.”

 “Can you go out and buy a flamethrower? Can you go out and buy an F-15?” he said. “If you want to protect yourself against the federal government, you’re going to need at least an F-15.”

Biden was mocking pro-gun advocates who cite Jefferson’s line, delivered in a letter discussing Shays’ Rebellion: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.” 

“No amendment is, in fact, absolute,” Biden said. “You cannot, you cannot stand up in this hall and yell ‘fire.’ That’s not freedom of speech.”

Biden also brought up a controversial remark he’d made in the past that the National Rifle Association is not gun control advocates’ enemy. He said the problem is that “the gun manufacturers are supplying the leadership of the NRA with their income.” 

“The reason they don’t want what they know is rational gun policy is they’ll sell fewer guns. They’ll sell less ammunition. Who in God’s name needs a weapon that can handle 100 rounds? For God’s sake,” he said. 

He advocated a series of gun control measures, starting with requiring gun manufacturers to use biometric markers -- like a fingerprint, used to unlock older iPhones -- that ensure only the owner of a gun can fire it. 

Biden also said gun manufacturers should not be shielded from liability for how their guns are used. Additionally, he advocated for confiscating the guns of anyone with a restraining order and for an assault weapons ban. 

“There’s a lot of practical things that we’re not doing that are easily able to be done, but it requires the federal government to have a commitment to follow through on what all of you are talking about,” Biden said.

12:58 p.m. ET, August 10, 2019

Kamala Harris says Walmart should stop selling guns

From CNN's Kyung Lah, Jasmine Wright and Jessica Estepa

After delivering her soapbox speech at the Iowa State Fair, California Sen. Kamala Harris told reporters that she believed Walmart "should stop selling guns."

She elaborated by emphasizing the importance of background checks, saying, “if they participate in background checks,” she would change her mind, “but right now, they’re not” participating.

Walmart is one of the biggest gun sellers in the world. The retailer has taken down displays of violent video games following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

The senator drew one of the biggest crowds so far at the Des Moines Register's Soapboax, delivering her stump speech and inspiring applause as she explained her policy proposals and taking jabs at President Donald Trump.

"Fight we will. Fight we must. This is a fight born of optimism," she told the crowd. "It's a fight we will win."

As she arrived at the fair -- right before reporters swarmed around her -- she noted that she hadn't been before.

She got right to business, from flipping pork chops with the Iowa Pork Association to voting in the corn kernel casting.

"I think I'll vote for myself," she said as she dropped a kernel into a jar.

11:46 p.m. ET, August 9, 2019

Democrats speak at the annual Wing Ding dinner: Sanders, Booker, Yang, Harris, Inslee, Warren, Biden

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Here are the highlights from the final 7 candidates who spoke at the Wing Ding dinner Friday night in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders isn’t shy about naming his enemies: “Wall Street and the drug companies and the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry and the NRA.” 

He is also direct about what it would take to overcome those forces: “An unprecedented grassroots movement.” 

The Vermont senator also called for gun control measures, and said Trump is “the most dangerous president in the history of this country” 

“Together, we will end the racism and the sexism and the Islamophobia and the homophobia and all the other phobias that this President exhibits. And we will end white nationalism in this country, as well.” 

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker

Booker scrapped the shortened version of his stump speech that most candidates were delivering to instead focus his five minutes on gun violence. 

In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Booker said he would not “let the slaughter of our fellow citizens just disappear in the next media cycle.” 

“This road won’t be easy. There’ll be weeks like this,” Booker said. 

“It’s not just the mass shootings,” he said. “It’s the fact that every day in America, people are being slaughtered in communities like mine where the sound of gunfire is so regular.” 

“This is not a referendum on one guy in one office; this is a referendum on us and who we are going to be to each other. This is one of those moral moments in our nation that is going to define the moral character of our country,” Booker said. 

Booker earned the second standing ovation of the night with a rousing close, telling the crowd they can “overcome this darkness with our light. This is the call of our country. And it is time for the United States of America to rise again.”

Andrew Yang

The entrepreneur’s focus on the economic threat of automation was a major change of pace. 

“We’re in the third inning of the greatest economic transformation in the history of our country,” he said. “It is up to you to do something about it.” 

He pitched his proposal to give every American $1,000 per month, which he said would be the “tech check.” 

“It would go right back into your communities,” he said, paying for things like day care and Little League sign-ups. “It would help give rural areas a real path forward, because we know rural areas are getting sucked dry by today’s economy.” 

“And unlike the nonsense out of Washington, DC, this would work,” Yang said.

California Sen. Kamala Harris

Harris’ argument was straightforward: “We are better than this. So this is a moment of time for us to fight for the best of who we are.” 

The California senator said Trump’s presidency has been about “trying to divide us.” 

She lambasted Trump’s impact on farmers, saying that “this man’s fragile ego” has “prompted trade policy by tweet.” 

“This is a fight not only for the soul of our country, born out of love for our country, but this is a fight knowing that this is so much worse than what we ever hoped it could be,” she said of Trump’s presidency. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

“I’m here to say this one thing,” Inslee began by saying. “If you put me on the debate stage with Donald Trump, I will beat him like a two-dollar mule. 

“Of course. we Democrats don’t do that to animals,” he said. “We treat them with respect. And the reason for that is, I’ve never met a mule that lies like Donald Trump … and I’ve never met a mule that was a white nationalist.”

Inslee said if he is elected, the Democratic Party would prioritize investing in small towns. 

Inslee bragged about Washington state’s progressive policies, including net neutrality, equal pay and efforts to combat climate change. 

He also touted his vote to ban assault weapons, saying he knew he would lose his seat in Congress over it -- which he did, a cost Inslee said was worth paying. 

And Inslee said he would make defeating the climate crisis “the No. 1 priority of the United States of America.”  

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Warren delved into the weeds of her policy proposals focused on rural America, focusing on community hospitals and family farms. 

“We start by being willing to fight against hospital mergers that cost us our local hospitals. And we recognize the economics: small hospitals operate on thin margins. That means everyone who comes in the door needs to be covered by health care, that’s one of the reasons I support 'Medicare for All,'” she said. 

Warren added that “we need to have the courage to break up big ag, to fight against big ag.”

But her biggest applause line came when she touted her “wealth tax” proposal -- a 2% fee on America’s wealthiest people. 

“We’ve had enough of an America where the government works better and better and better for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. 2020 is our chance: We can make this government work for all of America,” she said. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Rather than touting his own policy proposals, Biden argued that Trump is “an existential threat” who is eroding “the guardrails of society that we set up long ago to contain the abuse of power.” 

He compared Trump’s presidency, which he said is “white nationalism” and “white supremacy,” to the Ku Klux Klan’s prominence in the 1920s. 

“Donald Trump offers no moral leadership. He has no interest in unifying the country. There’s no evidence the presidency has awakened his conscience,” he said. 

Biden, who sat in the front row and watched others speak, said that “the core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very own sense of who we are is at stake.” 

“Presidents, the words they say matter. They can move markets. They can send women and men to war. They can make peace. They can inspire us to reach the moon. They can appeal to our better angels. But they can also induce the ugliest, most venal side of society,” he said. 

11:39 p.m. ET, August 9, 2019

Democrats speak at the annual Wing Ding dinner: Buttigieg, Gabbard, Gillibrand, de Blasio, Williamson, Castro, Ryan

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Here's what the next seven candidates had to say at Friday's Wing Ding dinner in Clear Lake, Iowa:

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg was the night’s first show-stopper -- taking the stage to the loudest cheers yet and ending with a standing ovation. 

He delivered a shortened, amped-up version of his argument that Democrats need to reclaim words like "freedom" and "patriotism." 

“Values like freedom are not conservative values, they’re American values, and today they have progressive implication,” he said. 

Among the examples Buttigieg cited: “Women are not free in this country when their access to reproductive care is being dictated by male bosses and male politicians.” 

“We’re going to break that spell that has people thinking that the flag belongs on one side of the aisle,” he said as he wandered the stage. 

In an implicit call for generational change, Buttigieg mixed in jabs at Trump such as: “How does a guy like Donald Trump ever get to be cheating distance from the Oval Office to begin with? That doesn’t happen in ordinary times.” 

And he said that “white nationalism is a national security threat to this country.” 

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Another military veteran, Gabbard asked the crowd to give veterans in the crowd an ovation. 

She said as president, she would commit to “ending these wasteful, regime-change wars.” 

Her speech struck the theme of “putting the interests of our country and the American people above all else.” 

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand opened with a story about watching her grandmother and her friends stuff envelopes as political organizers when she was 11 years old and being mesmerized by their jiggly arms. 

She also touted her victory in a relatively red House district, before she became a senator representing deep-blue New York. “I know how to win in red places and blue places and purple places,” she said. 

Gillibrand touted her advocacy for cracking down on military sexual assault and making permanent a measure to pay for care of 9/11 first responders. 

“If you want to get something done in Washington, just tell me it’s impossible and I promise you I’ll get it done,” she said. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

De Blasio touted a push in New York City for two weeks of paid vacation for everyone, and said those two weeks off each year should be required nationwide. 

De Blasio was the first Democrat to brag about an appearance on Fox News, telling the crowd his son helped him prepared for a hostile interview with Sean Hannity. 

“I was able to put Sean in his place because I had a good coach,” he said. 

Wherever de Blasio goes, he seems to be followed by protests of his actions in tNew York City. 

At one point, he asked: “Are we the party of change?”

A woman in the back of the room answered: “Are we the party of making the trains run on time?” 

Marianne Williamson

The author opened with a message about Democrats whose policy visions she said she agreed with: “We’ve been saying these things, and we lost last time.” 

She said Democrats need to “embrace a more transformational vision.” 

“The American people’s goodness and love has not been channeled through our politics the way it should be, and not for a long time,” Williamson said. 

She said Democrats must stop taking money from powerful interests.

“Ladies and gentlemen, people can smell it,” she said. 

And she took a swing at California Sen. Kamala Harris, the former California attorney general for whom the claim she’ll “prosecute the case” against Trump is a go-to line. 

“I am not prosecuting a case against Donald Trump,” she said. “I am prosecuting a case against the system that delivered Donald Trump.” 

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

Castro pointed to the shootings in recent days in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. “It is not a foregone conclusion that we are going to keep getting better,” he said. 

He was the first candidate to talk about systemic racism in police forces, saying he wants “greater accountability and transparency in police departments.” 

“We need to move forward as one nation, with one destiny … the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest and the most prosperous nation on earth,” Castro said. 

He said his first executive order as president would be rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, the l2015 deal on global warming targets that the Trump administration has vowed to leave.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan

Ryan focused squarely on an animated call for gun control, saying he’d just returned from a trip to Kentucky to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow gun reforms to advance. 

“We put a caravan together with Moms Demand Action and myself. We went through Ohio and we picked up moms. And we went down to Louisville, Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell lives, and we took the fight to his backyard, saying we need gun reform in the United States of America and we need it now,” he said. 

Ryan added: “People are dying in the streets of this country, getting killed by weapons that were made for battlefields, not neighborhoods like Dayton, Ohio.” 

He also channeled Louisville’s legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s famous line to someone who said he’d seen Ali knocked down, saying: “America has never been knocked down. We’re either up or we’re getting up.” 

11:39 p.m. ET, August 9, 2019

Democrats speak at the annual Wing Ding dinner: Klobuchar, Bullock, Delaney, Bennet, Hickenlooper, Steyer, Sestak

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Clear Lake, Iowa – Democratic presidential contenders were forced to boil their stump speeches down to just five minutes in front of a raucous crowd of party officials and activists Friday night in Iowa. 

The Iowa Democratic Wing Ding, which emerged in recent elections as a must-stop on the road to the caucuses that kick off the presidential nominating process, with 1,600 tickets at $35 apiece selling out for this year’s affair. 

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, stole the show early on -- earning a standing ovation after a rousing speech urging Democrats to retake values like freedom and patriotism. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a crowd favorite later in the evening, delivering a policy-heavy speech aimed at rural voters. 

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker offered perhaps the night’s most memorable performance, scrapping the modified version of his stump speech that most candidates were delivering and focusing on the recent mass shootings, pledging not to “let the slaughter of our fellow citizens just disappear in the next media cycle.” Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, similarly focused on the shootings, touting a bus trip to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, urging McConnell to take action on gun control legislation – and then quoting Louisville’s hometown hero, Muhammad Ali. 

The only major candidate not to attend the Wing Ding was former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is in his hometown of El Paso in the aftermath of the mass shooting there that left 22 people dead. O’Rourke’s Iowa staffers held a moment of silence before the event that was attended by other candidates, and he recorded a video that was played during the dinner. 

Here’s a recap of what each of the Democrats said Friday night in Clear Lake: 

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar focused on demonstrating her toughness and policy mastery. 

“We have a guy in the White House now who is afraid. He’s afraid of the future, right? He’s afraid of the NRA, he’s afraid of science, he’s afraid of equal rights,” she said. “He is afraid of a woman in the White House. We are not afraid of that.” 

The Minnesota senator told the crowd her focuses include the farm bill, child care, housing, education, hospitals and “making sure that we have enough mental health beds when there are only 64 in the state of Iowa.” 

And, in a reference to a policy fight in the Republican-led state, she said, “I will end this practice of privatizing Medicaid. That is wrong in the state of Iowa.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

Bullock’s case was all about Iowa ties -- he pointed out that his great-grandparents settled in the state in 1850 -- and electability. 

He bragged that he was the only Democrat to win statewide in 2016 in a state Trump won. And he said Democrats must “change our strategy” to win back those who voted for Obama in 2012 but Trump in 2016. 

“If we can’t win back places we lost, if we can’t give people a reason to vote for us, Trump could win, he said. 

Bullock said he “won three elections in a red state not by compromising our values but by getting stuff done.” 

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney 

The self-funding former businessman offered himself as a moderate, with an implicit message that Democrats’ most progressive candidates are making politically unfeasible promises. 

Delaney has played a centrist role on the debate stage, tut-tutting progressives -- and being slammed by Warren for using “Republican talking points” to do so. On Friday, though, he got to put an optimistic spin on that moderate vision. 

He said Democrats “need a candidate that has an economic vision that excites everyone in America” -- including independents, moderates and disaffected Republicans. 

He said Democrats need to offer “real solutions” rather than “impossible promises,” and to offer a “big tent” ideologically. 

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet

Bennet argued that he was the best candidate for “rural Iowa” and the one most focused on “the future of rural America.” 

He said he would pump money into rural needs, including broadband internet access, rural hospitals and schools. 

And he said that to win states like his home of Colorado and Iowa, it’s “so important for the Democratic Party to compete in rural Iowa and rural America in this election.” 

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump -- but returned to the refrain that “that’s not enough to win” for Democrats. 

He pointed to Trump’s approval rating, noting it is similar to Ronald Reagan’s and Barack Obama’s at this point in their presidencies.

“My plan to beat Donald Trump is to start by looking at our history,” he said. “No sitting senator has ever beat an incumbent president. … Governors are closer to the people. We balance every budget, every year, and we get things done.” 

Tom Steyer

Steyer, the billionaire who is a recent entrant into the race and has repeatedly pushed for the President's impeachment, argued that his personal fortune means he can successfully make the case that Trump is “a fraud and a failure.” 

But what really pumped up the crowd was his case for term limits. 

“Speaking of term limits, I have six words for you: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley,” Steyer said, referring to the Senate Majority Leader and the chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

“Every Democrat has good ideas, but if you want to get anything done, you have to fix our democracy first,” he said. 

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak

The longshot late entrant who hasn’t yet appeared on a debate stage focused his speech on his opposition to the Iraq war. 

The former admiral told the crowd, “if you don’t think the youth of America are great, come aboard an aircraft carrier.”

He said Democrats need to “not just elect a president, but someone to heal our nation’s soul.”