Many Iowans Will Walk Into The Caucus Undecided, Adding To Uncertainty

Three women arrived at a town hall for Pete Buttigieg in Ankeny together Friday evening.

They’re going to caucus, they said.

But, just three days before they were supposed to arrive at their precincts, they weren’t sure who they were going to caucus for. Like many of other Iowans who can’t decide, they may well walk into the door of their caucus site undecided.

“We just recently decided we were going to caucus,” Sarah Eichhorn said. “We started researching and this event popped up.”

The number of first-time caucus-goers and those still undecided add one more serious element of uncertainty to tonight. Starting Line has spoken to countless Iowans over the past month at candidate events who say they literally won’t make their choice until after arriving at their precinct. That should give an advantage to the campaigns with the strongest ground game operation, whose supporters in the room are the most prepared and welcoming to their neighbors.

Eichhorn said she’s had plenty of time to decide who she’s going to caucus for. She’s just been waiting.

“Elizabeth Warren has changed her mind on a couple of things,” Eichhorn said. “I think it’s important to wait until they’re actually running to see what they’re running with.”

Kristi Sexton, who was with Eichhorn and Terese Frundt at the Buttigieg event, said she was also waiting for the field to narrow itself a bit before she made a decision.

“There were so many positions that I liked from some of the candidates that have fallen away,” Sexton said. “I didn’t really want to commit myself to one and then have them leave the race and then have to try and find somebody else.”

The three women said they planned to do some research and hit up more events over the weekend in order to make up their minds.

Sexton and Eichhorn both said they are putting the candidate’s education plans at the front of their minds while they make their choices, while Frundt said finding a “winnable” candidate is important to her.

That word “winnable,” which can also translated into “electable,” has been talked about a lot in Iowa this election cycle.

National news outlets have folks here pegged as being too afraid of President Donald Trump getting reelected to make up their minds.

That’s not true for everyone, though.

Bev Davey, who was at a town hall event for Amy Klobuchar in Cedar Rapids Sunday morning, walked into the event undecided.

She walked out as a Klobuchar supporter.

Fear had no place in her decision making process.

“Fear isn’t a mobilizer,” Davey said. “I don’t go there. It’s not about fear.”

Davey said reading fact checks in her newspaper and then attending the Klobuchar event in person both helped her make up her mind.

“I like her truthfulness,” Davey said. “Not that the other candidates aren’t truthful as well, but I just think she has a lot of integrity and truthfulness and I’m really looking for that in a leadership role in this country.

“I wanted someone in the middle,” Davey continued. “And I think Amy Klobuchar is that person. And again, as far as time making up my mind there were just a lot of candidates to hear from.”

Jane Corey, another Cedar Rapids resident who was at Klobuchar’s town hall Saturday morning, was also undecided going in.

She had recently attended events for Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren.

“But, I’m convinced now, just seeing her in person, it’s different,” Corey said after Klobuchar spoke. “I don’t know, it’s just a different vibe. She said a lot of things I agreed with.”

Upon leaving the event, Corey said she’d likely caucus for Klobuchar. Her second option, she said, is probably Elizabeth Warren.

“I’m still not sure on the second option,” Corey said. “I’m still on the fence. I know I’m going to have to decide.”

She said her long decision making process is due in part to the sheer number of candidates.

“Some were too far left, some were not progressive enough, and I was kind of moderate for a while, but the more you learn over time…it’s just hard,” Corey said. “Because they are all kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum.”

They aren’t the only Iowans taking their time to make a decision on caucus night.

Iowa Starting Line ran into a few more undecided voters at a Tom Steyer event in Ankeny Friday morning.

James Adams, of Ankeny, was at the event and describes himself as a moderate, but he was still debating between Biden, Steyer and Buttigieg.

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Adams said he’d probably wait until caucus night  to decide and the issues that concern him most are a bit across the board, ranging from healthcare to child care.

Karen Lewis, a Cedar Rapids resident at a Biden event Saturday afternoon, is another undecided Iowan.

She wanted to hear Biden talk about his plans to save the environment and was hoping to hear something about raising the minimum wage.

“I’m looking for someone who will be electable nationally and who is more in the middle and not on the far left, and that’s why we’re here today,” Lewis said. “I’m going to hear from Amy [Klobuchar] tomorrow and hopefully on Monday we’ll have a definitive answer, but I’m going to keep an open mind on what people have to say Monday night.”

Lewis said she hasn’t purposefully waited to make up her mind.

“I’m definitely a centrist, so among the centrist candidates we have a few good candidates out there,” Lewis said. “I really just want to learn more about where they go with certain issues.”

She argues the next president needs to be someone who will unify people from both parties

“The far left, the far right, they tend to pick up more candidates, but they are not the majority of our country so we need someone who can represent everybody,” Lewis said. “That’s why I’m here looking at the VP today and some of the other candidates tomorrow.”

While the undecideds still have the rest of the day to make up their minds, they may want to be careful before they go stand in the “undecided” corner on first alignment this evening.

If any group hits 15 percent on first alignment, caucus-goers will not be allowed to move. That’s been leading to a trend of some Iowans planning on initially caucusing for a candidate who has already dropped out, like Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, who obviously won’t have a sizable group. That way, they can see how things are playing out in the room without possibly getting locked into a group, undecided or otherwise.


by Paige Godden
Posted 2/3/20

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