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Welcome to Iowa: The Final Weeks Before the First Democratic Vote

Credit: The New Yorker
Published on January 9, 2020 - Duration: 04:18s

Welcome to Iowa: The Final Weeks Before the First Democratic Vote

The reporter Eric Lach on the importance of the Iowa caucuses, what makes them unique, and how a win or loss here can make or break campaigns.

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Welcome to Iowa: The Final Weeks Before the First Democratic Vote

[ringing electronic tones][pleasant piano music]- [Eric] Iowa mattersbecause Iowa is first.[crowd cheering]The road to picking apresident starts here.It's not the biggest state,its population is overwhelmingly white,and its caucus process is quirky,but a win or a loss herecan make or break campaigns.In the lead-up to theIowa Democratic Caucuseson February 3rd, candidatesare on the trail,making their case across the state,and the press isn't far behind.I'm Eric Lach, welcome to Iowa.[truck whooshing][pleasant piano music][footsteps crunching]- [Man] And I wanna thankyou for being here again.- [Eric] In the past year,I've been to dozens of these events.Campaigning in Iowa is intimate.It can look and feellike a high schoolelection but with polling.I've asked people whatthey're looking for.I've asked myself what I'm looking for.- We still have seats here to fill.- I'm press, I'm just, you know,I'm just being my vulture self, you know?- [Woman] [chuckles] Your vulture self.- Just getting a feel forand trying to translateand transmit a littlebit of what's being said,what's being emphasized, what the mood is,what the energy is.That's kind of, like,the news at these events.What'd you think?[muffled rock music]- Well, I'm an undecided.- [Eric] Okay.- And I've been trying to get aroundto hear all the candidates.I like everybody, Imean, that's my problemis that I like everybody.- [Eric] Are you guys Bernie supportersor are you guys just voters,or are you guys.- I'm on the fence, yeah.- You're on the fence?- Yeah, it's not a sure thing.- I just really would like to hear,be upfront and personaland really hear hisperspective on things live.- There's a stagecraft to these events.The candidates wanna pack the room.They'll want to looklike it's overflowing,and nobody's ever admitted this to me,but my sense is thatthey want people to feellike they're at a high-demand event.You'll see staff members, you know,put out extra chairs after people get into find extra room for people,and I've always wondered ifthat's just the game plan.It's, like, just make it looklike there's a surprisingamount of people here.[crowd chattering]See, I told you about the chairs.[crowd chattering][chairs rattling]Iowa is a big state.Reporters, staffers, candidates,anyone involved in this processspends an insane amountof time in the car.Mm.[pleasant keyboard music]Finally, not all events make news.Candidates give the samestump speech, or similar ones,at event after event, andreporters who follow themare always looking fornew angles, new wrinkles,which you don't always find.With the exception of Biden,every candidate says to every question,that's a great question, right?There are no bad questions in Iowa.- Thank you, Jen, for that great question.- But that's howcampaigning works in Iowa.It's just kind of like,four weeks out from voting,after these people havebeen coming to the statewith so many people focusedon the huge differencesbetween these candidates,and yet you have these peoplewho are just kind of like,well, I kinda like Bernieand I kinda like Pete,and it's like it doesn't matter to them.There's no dissonance to themin terms of policy choices.It's just a kind of likefeel thing, you know,and that's real, that's how people vote.Why do we make our political candidatesflip steaks on a giant grill, you know?It's, like, does a U.S presidentneed to be able to grill a steak well?No, will they ever grill a steak?No, like, they won't be doingany of their own cooking.Nobody eats the steaks.Nobody could tell you what the steaksthat John Delaney cookedversus Kamala Harris cookedtaste like, but they allwanted to see them flip 'em.There's a kind of demandin these early statesfor human connection, I guess,is like the nicest way to say it,and then kind of likehow much are you willingto humiliate yourself is probablythe darker way to say it.This is it, guys, welcome to the campaign.[pleasant orchestral music]

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