It is caucus day in Iowa, but after a whirlwind weekend tour of the state Sen. Amy Klobuchar is back in Washington, D.C. on Monday — with no plans to be Midwest-bound until around the time of the first test of the 2020 election season this evening.
Sens. Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bennet were drawn back to Washington for the closing arguments of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Stuck in Washington, Klobuchar is relying on staff, volunteers and surrogates to turn out voters ahead of the 7 p.m. caucuses. Her husband John Bessler and daughter Abigail kicked off the day with a visit to a small group of volunteers at the campaign’s Des Moines field offices. The pair brought a box of Hy-Vee glazed doughnuts to fuel supporters heading out for a day of door knocking.
“Amy would love to be here but she’s doing her job today, of course, in Washington D.C.,” Bessler said. “But she will be back tonight for her victory party. We’re really excited and we’re looking forward to having a great night at the caucuses.”
Bessler told volunteers that he expects his wife to “exceed expectations.” In an interview, he said the campaign’s focus on rural areas, including visits to all 99 counties, could make a difference.
“Some of the other candidates didn’t go to these places,” he said. “I think the fact that Amy showed up, is going to mean a lot.”
Meanwhile, Klobuchar was trying to connect with voters from afar, including speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on early Monday. She said on the program that while she wishes she could be in Iowa, her campaign is “surging right at the end.”
“There is no scenario where I do not go on [to New Hampshire],” Klobuchar said, touting her local endorsements in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
In these final hours, candidates are trying to win over undecided voters — estimated to still be a substantial number. They also want to get people to consider them as a second choice if their first pick doesn’t meet the 15% threshold to be “viable” during the caucus process.
Cheuang Kavan, a machine operator from Decorah, was one of those undecided voters. He attended an event Sunday morning where Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and First Lady Gwen Walz were making a personal pitch for Klobuchar, telling voters how she would bring compassion to the White House.
Kavan said after the Walz’s speeches that he is leaning toward former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but still hadn’t made up his mind. That’s not for a lack of information.
He and many other Iowans say they have been bombarded with texts, calls and campaigns knocking on their doors.
Coffee shops and the main drag of Water Street in Decorah were swarming with people plastered in campaign gear on Sunday, including Warren stickers and hats with Andrew Yang’s slogan “MATH,” an acronym for “Make America Think Harder.”
“We don’t even answer the phone,” said retiree Dennis Norden, of Decorah. Karen Bergan chimed in that they get 35 calls every week, and she estimated that eight or 10 people knock on their door a week.
“You see Sammy, who works at Pete Buttigieg’s office downtown. And then you see the Bernie guys going in with their cookies while we’re going to the library and you’re waving at them … And you start to feel like you almost know these workers,” Bergan said.
With candidates holding events in all corners of the state, it has been fairly easy for Iowans to do some last-minute cramming to firm up their decisions.
With just over 24 hours until caucuses convene, Lance Votroubek, a 39-year-old trucking company executive from Cedar Rapids, was still scrambling to consider his options.
“I saw Biden and Buttigieg yesterday. Today I’m seeing Amy and I might still have time to go see Tom Steyer,” Votroubek said Sunday. “I like to see these folks right before the vote because their positions on things tend to change over the course of the campaign.”
Votroubek said he has to two main criteria for his caucus choice: Someone who, as president, will over four years make the country more unified again; and a tough candidate who he believes could match Trump on the debate stage. Klobuchar, Biden and Buttigieg are his top three, but not necessarily in that order.
“Tonight or tomorrow my wife and I will sit down and talk about all this,” he said. “And she’ll make up her mind, and I’ll make up my mind, and hopefully we choose well.”
Star Tribune staff writers Pat Condon and Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.