Happy Friday from a gray and gloomy Des Moines. The windows in my downtown hotel room offer a broad sweeping view to the north, and what I see right now is a good metaphor for pundit predictions about what's going to happen here in Monday night's Democratic presidential caucus: it's a big, foggy haze.
Except for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the other four top contenders have all held the top spot in at least one poll of Iowa. "Fluid" is the word most used by party types and political analysts to describe the state of play. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been showing some frontrunner momentum in both Iowa and at the macro level. Klobuchar is seen as in reach of a strong finish in Iowa. If Sanders continues to rise from the left, Iowa could position Klobuchar to offer the sharpest contrast going forward. But she probably has to finish better than fifth.
Here's my first dispatch
from the home stretch. The dynamic described prevails again today: former Vice President Joe Biden
is campaigning in Burlington, Fort Madison and Mount Pleasant (the hometown of former Gov. Tom Vilsack, an important Biden surrogate). Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg
is in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Clinton and Davenport. Klobuchar, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren
are still in Washington, on what may be a conclusive day
in the Senate impeachment trial.
For now, Klobuchar's first scheduled stop back in Iowa is Saturday at a 10 a.m. event in Bettendorf. Friday is about the surrogates: the combo of Abigail Bessler along with mayors Melvin Carter of St. Paul and Emily Larsen of Duluth have events in Ames, Indianola and Pella.
Another notable Minnesota visitor: Rep. Ilhan Omar, campaigning for Sanders in Des Moines and Indianola on Friday and Saturday. Gotta be honest: Bernie is getting the biggest names. Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend are playing Iowa shows on his behalf this weekend, and Michael Moore is co-hosting a town hall with Jane Sanders at a casino in Osceola later this afternoon.
That sort of party vibe generated by the Iowa Caucus may help explain how this quadrennial event could inspire its own kind of weird tourism. On Wednesday at a Buttigieg town hall in Ames, I talked to Janet Wolf, a retired county supervisor from Santa Barbara, Calif., who traveled to Iowa with her husband and another couple to ... well, I'll let her explain:
"They call us caucus tourists. We did this four years ago, too. We're Democrats. We used to watch all this Iowa coverage on C-Span and my husband and I were just fascinated. We came here on a whim four years ago, and this time we asked our very good friends to join us."
The quartet is staying in the Des Moines area. They plan to attend a caucus at Drake University as observers on Monday night. Wolf noted they're not just doing political stuff: "We're seeing a hockey game and a play, too." I saw Wolf again yesterday at a Biden event, where she was posing for selfies with A-list political journalists John Heilemann and E.J. Dionne.
Former Rep. John Delaney
, who's been campaigning for president in Iowa since summer of 2017 and has spent millions of his own dollars in the process, ended his campaign
this morning. Wouldn't you just stay in to see how you do?
Let's throw things over to Torey Van Oot, who is herself en route to Iowa this morning but of course continues to keep tabs on all kinds of St. Paul happenings:
Gov. Tim Walz will report raising just over $1 million in 2019. The campaign says that's the most any Minnesota governor has raised in their first year in office.
A release out this morning announcing the haul also includes some internal polling from the campaign. The poll put Walz's favorability at 52% (27% held an unfavorable view). President Trump, meanwhile, was underwater with 41% favorable vs. 56% unfavorable. The campaign says the poll, conducted in September, is based on interviews with 600 likely 2020 general election voters. Margin of error +/-4%.
Legislative campaign news: Republican Joe Garofalo is running to challenge freshman DFL Rep. Shelly Christensen, DFL-Stillwater, for House District 39B. The district, which narrowly went for Trump in 2016, was home to one of the closest state legislative races of 2018. For those wondering, yes, he's related to Pat (they're cousins!). (Condon asks: What about Janeane?)
The Senate DFL Caucus meets Saturday morning for its much-anticipated leadership vote. Here's my profile of Sen. Susan Kent and her challenge to Minority Leader Tom Bakk.
Sounds like members are in for a heated debate and a close vote. Follow Briana Bierschbach for live updates from outside the closed-door meeting. https://twitter.com/bbierschbach
A Hot Dish reader and former state Senate staffer wrote to make the case that growing chatter of Bakk having the votes to "delay" a vote until after the election isn't technically accurate, since the caucus will be made up of different members by then.
"Caucuses get together after the election when their body is on the ballot and that meeting is when leadership elections occur," the reader wrote. "Therefore pushing this vote until after the election is not a delay, it's the caucus determining that it is not interested in a leadership change ahead of the election. This action, if taken, would be an admission that Sen. Kent does not have the votes she requires to overtake Sen. Bakk as leader."
Back to Iowa. The Star Tribune team of Condon
, Van Oot
, Van Berkel
will be all over Iowa between now and Monday night covering Klobuchar's stand and the all-around mad dash to the end. Email us with tips, predictions, restaurant recommendations (but please, no more breaded pork sandwiches!), Iowa lore and legend, and effective short cuts. Look for special caucus-focused Hot Dish newsletters on Saturday and Sunday. And have a great weekend!
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