With three weeks left until caucus-goers make their presidential picks known, Sen. Elizabeth Warren returned to Iowa with big-name endorsers in tow and a second-place showing in the latest Iowa Poll.
Voters at her two events in Central Iowa met her with the same enthusiasm as Warren has inspired for months, and a few were there to break the tie in their minds between Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who finished first in the Jan. 10 Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
“I was hoping that this would help me decide who I’m going to caucus for,” said Taylor Glomb, in Marshalltown.
For months, Glomb has gone back and forth over whether to support Warren or Sanders on caucus night. The Marshalltown event, she said, was a chance to break the tie.
“Just solidifying the differences between her and Bernie would be great,” she said. “I want to see which one I feel a stronger connection with their beliefs.”
According to the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll, Sanders leads the field in Iowa, with 20% of likely Democratic caucus-goers naming him as their first choice. Warren was right behind at 17%, followed by former Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 16% and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15%.
Kathy Byrnes attended Warren’s Sunday morning town hall at Fisher Elementary School in Marshalltown. She was trying to decide between Warren and Sanders for her second choice. Because climate change is her biggest concern, Tom Steyer is her first choice.
“I think they can both win,” Byrnes said of Sanders and Warren. “I think they both offer alternatives that we’re looking for. Bernie’s more out of the box. But I think [Warren] might instill a little more confidence in her ability to get things done.”
Byrnes said she wanted to know who would prioritize climate policy as president. She mentioned Sanders’ climate summits as positives, but thought he didn’t emphasize the issue outside of those events.
When it comes to Warren, Byrnes said she liked her thorough policy proposals.
“The fact that she got hers from [Washington Gov. Jay] Inslee, who is a real climate expert, gave me a lot of confidence in her level of seriousness about tackling it,” Byrnes said.
During the question-and-answer portion of Warren’s event, Byrnes had the opportunity to talk directly with the candidate.
As the event cleared out and people lined up for selfies with Warren, Byrnes said she now had even more to ponder and hadn’t made a final decision, but was impressed with what she saw.
“She addressed it [climate change]. I loved all the plan comments she made. I loved what she said she’s going to do on day one. I believe that she’s going to be as aggressive on climate as she can be,” Byrnes said. “I like that she tackles things with smart policy, but also from a place in her heart that I really connect with. It really resonates with me. I think she’s got the wherewithal to take on Donald Trump.”
Moving From Castro To Warren
Another draw to Warren’s event in Marshalltown was Julian Castro, the former presidential candidate who endorsed Warren a week ago.
His support there wasn’t insignificant. Leading into the event, several cars lining the streets and people in the room sported merchandise from Castro’s campaign. While Castro typically only got around 1% in Iowa polls, he did have a sizable number of local Iowa endorsers and a network built up throughout the state.
Dave Barajas Jr. was one of those Castro supporters who is now considering Warren, largely because of Castro’s endorsement.
“I was going to be with Secretary Castro all the way to the end,” he said. “And when he decided to suspend his campaign, then I knew that I had to take another look. And then he came out right away and decided that he was going to endorse [Warren] with his full-fledged endorsement. That’s why I’m here, to hear more from her.”
Prior to Castro dropping out, Barajas said Warren was in his top three candidates. He didn’t say whether he was ready to throw his support behind the senator, but Castro’s endorsement has had an impact.
“For me personally, it definitely helps because I think so much of him, and of the work that he had done and his policies in the way that he wanted to lead our nation,” Barajas said. “I need to hear a little bit more from Sen. Warren, but I think I’m on a good path.”
Morgan Stacer was also all-in behind Castro before he dropped out Jan. 2. She came to the Marshalltown event because she trusted Castro and wanted to refresh her view of Warren.
“I really trust Castro’s judgment,” she said. “I look forward to seeing the dynamic between the two of them and I look forward to actually hearing Warren speak. I haven’t heard her speak for a couple months.”
With his time at the microphone, Castro talked about his childhood as a first-generation American who has now been a mayor, a cabinet secretary and presidential candidate.
After Warren’s event, Barajas said he was impressed by her and had more to think about.
“The strong support for [Castro] and continuing to hear how much he’s supporting her, that means a lot to me,” Barajas said. “Every time that I hear her speak, I learn more about her policies and I continue to hear more from Secretary Castro and his support for her. I believe in him and he believes in her.”
Reaffirming Recent Converts
For other Iowans who recently made up their mind, Warren’s endorsements only reaffirmed their support.
“It was very affirming [Castro and Congresswoman Katie Porter’s endorsements]. I’ve always liked Julian Castro and I absolutely love Katie Porter,” said Joy Newcom, Saturday at Warren’s Mason City event.
Joy was joined by her husband, Mark. She said she got 100% behind Warren in the last week.
“In truth, she’s the best person. It’s the first time around where I’ve gone to events and I’ve been eliminating people at the events rather than being excited at the events. And I just continued to not have a reason to disqualify her,” she said. “And actually, for me, with Warren, the way she tackles problems and is very consistent in her approach, and thorough, is very appealing.”
Mark said he was 90% of the way there. Sen. Kamala Harris, who ended her campaign early in December, was his No. 1 choice, but Warren was his second. He also liked Andrew Yang’s focus on the changing economy, and said he would like to see Warren adopt some of those policies.
“We need to figure out that the economy we have won’t be the economy of the future,” he said. “But I believe Warren has much more of an opportunity to beat Trump.”
For Joy, the real kicker was Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ health care plan. She also sees Warren as a more unifying force.
“I know that none of those Democrats are going to have a slam dunk when it comes to fixing health care. It’s going to be a struggle all the way. But I trust Elizabeth Warren’s leadership skills and the way she thinks about the problem for getting it over the line,” Joy said. “She’s stronger than Sanders with how her approach to do it, and her ability to play well with others.”
By Nikoel Hytrek