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Democratic Presidential Hopefuls In Final Stretch Of Iowa Campaigning


The impeachment trial of President Trump was on pause today in Washington, D.C., and that meant this was a critical day of presidential campaigning. The top Democratic candidates were all in Iowa today, including Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, who all spent the last week tied up with the trial in the Senate. It's the homestretch in Iowa. The caucuses there are a week from tomorrow. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has been crisscrossing the state as well, and he is with us now from Cedar Rapids.

Hi, Don.


MARTIN: So where have you been?

GONYEA: Well, right now, I'm awaiting an Elizabeth Warren event in Cedar Rapids. You might be able to hear the noise kind of in the background. I've come to the back of the room.

Earlier today, an Amy Klobuchar town hall in Waterloo. Yesterday, a couple hours to the west of here, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was in Fort Dodge in a rustic old opera house. Last night, Bernie Sanders held a big rally in Ames with New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And Joe Biden is here, too. I haven't been with him. There's only (laughter) so much time, and it's a big state.

MARTIN: And they're not exactly making it easy on you coordinating travel. So it's clearly a rush toward the finish. How are Iowans feeling? What are they saying to you?

GONYEA: You feel that rush, and you feel the buzz that, you know, the first voting in 2020 is upon us a week from tomorrow. Those who are committed to a candidate - they know they have one more week of work to nail it down, to make sure everything they've put in place works. But the big takeaway is anxiety that you can feel. You can feel it bearing down on people almost, especially those who are undecided.

MARTIN: Well, what are they anxious about?

GONYEA: It's, who do I pick? You know, a lot of people say, just pick the person you like the most. But at every event I've been to, there have been seriously undecided people. They tell you about the calculations they're making. Who do I like best? But then who might have the best chance to beat President Trump? And that's, like, job No. 1 for these folks.

I spoke to two women - you're going to hear them here - both retirees, at the Sanders rally in Ames yesterday. One of them, Sue Jonigan (ph), is undecided - clearly thinking about who can beat Trump. She's worried he could win again.

SUE JONIGAN: It's just really stressful to try and make a decision. I feel like I have so much responsibility - like each one of us in Iowa has so much responsibility to make the right decision. And yet we don't know what the right decision is, so what do we do?

GONYEA: Jonigan was with her friend Kathy Scott (ph), who is a Sanders supporter. She's less worried. She's thinks - she thinks there's really less division among Democrats than the media portrays.

KATHY SCOTT: I think in the end, it's going to be like 2016. Even if your favorite didn't win, you have to vote. You can't - and you have to vote. So the - getting turnout, the turnout is the big deal to beat Trump, I think.

GONYEA: Again, she's saying, pick somebody now, but make sure you're there with the nominee in November. If she does have a worry, she says, it is about the Electoral College.

MARTIN: OK. And polls show that a fairly large number of likely caucusgoers in Iowa are still undecided. We only have about 30 seconds left. What are you looking for over the next week?

GONYEA: Well, you know, the Des Moines Register, the big paper in Iowa, endorsed Warren today in this morning's paper. We'll see if that gives her a boost. Sanders, Klobuchar and Warren all have to go back to Washington for the impeachment hearings. That leaves the state basically for the next week to Biden and Buttigieg, and they both have big tours planned.

MARTIN: All right. That is NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea at somebody's big rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: (Laughter) All right. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.