From Undecided To Staunch Supporters: Iowa Voters Eager To Kick Off Caucuses

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Audience members wait for speakers to begin at a campaign event for Pete Buttigieg at The Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller for Here & Now)
Audience members wait for speakers to begin at a campaign event for Pete Buttigieg at The Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller for Here & Now)

Democratic presidential candidates are making their final push in Iowa with just four days until the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 3.

Voters in Iowa are weighing closing arguments from candidates crisscrossing the state, while three top contenders — Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — are stuck in Washington for the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

This election year, in addition to asking voters who they support and what their most important issues are, Here & Now is asking voters to share their American dream for 2020.

Here’s what voters in Iowa have to say.

Tim Gossett

Gossett, who was in Ames, Iowa, says he’s leaning toward Warren and Andrew Yang.

“Well, I have always liked Elizabeth Warren, for a long time. I really appreciate a lot of her passion, her plethora of plans and experience in Washington, her ability to really challenge power,” he says. “With Andrew Yang, I think the thing that he really brings, which really surprised me, he articulated a story better than anybody I've heard so far. His speech was the best political speech I've heard in person ever. And so he, to me, rose to the top. He'd been kind of a lower-tier candidate for me.”

Tim Gossett of Ames, Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller for Here and Now)
Tim Gossett of Ames, Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller for Here and Now)

If Yang isn’t viable in the caucus, Gossett says he will support Warren.

“If I go Yang, it will be because I want his message to continue to be in the mix. Warren is gonna be viable. That's not a question,” he says. “So I'm going to keep on reading their platforms over the next couple of days and see where it goes.”

Gossett says his American dream would be for people across the country to come together this election.

“If I had a dream, it would be that we would once again see ourselves as one nation and find a way to go across to someplace we don't really understand,” he says. “And so, if I'm a middle-class person, I befriend people who are completely different from me and learn to understand things from their perspective. And that they would do the same for me. I think for me, the American dream is really about understanding that we can live together, and we share one economy, we share one country and it's OK if we have lots of differences of opinion.”

Glen Sailsbury

Sailsbury, who came to a Pete Buttigieg town hall in Vinton from his home of Dysart, says he's still looking for a candidate to support.

"I'm not sure yet. I'm one of the undecided voters. I'm trying to narrow it down. It really worries me that a week away from the caucus, and I don't have a definite choice yet,” he says.

He says he suspects he’s not alone in his indecision.

“In Iowa, there's a lot of good candidates running this time, and it's hard to choose among them,” he says. “There isn't a Barack Obama type that really stands out.”

Sailsbury says foreign policy is his main issue, along with health care.

"I know four years ago it was more running against someone instead of for something,” he says. “Health care is a big issue, and it's been talked about, but they're also going to be commander in chief on day one — and they have to be able to look at foreign policy in a way that's best for America.

His American dream: He wants “America to be the good guy again.”

"The old days watching Superman cartoons, it was truth, justice and the American way, and it seemed like America kind of followed that,” Sailsbury says. “We were restrained. We had a strong military, but we weren't a bully against anyone. We treated citizens of America and other countries well, and now we've gotten away from that. It's time to do the right thing again, you know, whether it's the border, not separating families and not treating children like concentration camp prisoners. We need to make better decisions that [are] good for everyone.”

"I think I'll be a last minute voter."

Emily Johnson of Ames, Iowa

Serena Qamhieh

Qamhieh is a 21-year-old student at the University of Iowa studying political science, philosophy and Arabic. She says she voted for Sanders in the 2016 caucuses, and she's sticking with him in 2020, in part because of his “Medicare for All” proposal.

“It's particularly important to me because I've definitely had family members who have had to struggle with something like going to the hospital and having to pay a lot of money coming out and not being able to afford it,” she says. “So his plan really speaks to me for that reason.”

Qamhieh, who is Palestinian, says she also gravitates toward Sanders because of his views on foreign policy.

“Something that's really important to me is foreign policy, specifically relating to Israel and Palestine,” she says. “And to me, I've never seen any other candidate talk about Israel-Palestine in the way that he has. Not that I think that it's perfect, but I think that's something that no other candidate is willing to talk about.”

She says her American dream is pretty simple.

“Like a standard thing, like equality, I guess?” Qamhieh says. “Or like equality for opportunity. Not necessarily everyone is the same, but everyone has the same opportunity to grow and to join and participate. So that includes things like immigration, that includes things like being able to participate in elections. So there needs to be more openness.”

Steve Stimmel 

Stimmel, a retired firefighter, came to a Joe Biden town hall event in Iowa City wearing a bright orange T-shirt reading "firefighters for Biden." The International Association of Firefighters, one of the country’s largest trade unions, endorsed Biden in April.

“I think he has a very good chance of being elected. And the experience he has is, I believe, better than anyone else's,” Stimmel says. “I think there's several good candidates this year, but I think we have to select one that's going to run the strongest fight against Trump.”

His No. 1 issues: health care and foreign policy.

“Well, because I am an older person, health care is a big concern. It's so terribly expensive,” Stimmel says. “And well [I’m concerned about] just our standing in the world. I think we're in a very bad spot right now. We need someone who's got experience.”

“Well, because I am an older person, health care is a big concern. It's so terribly expensive."

Steve Stimmel

He says his American dream is “to live a healthy life and one where we avoid getting into another war.”

“I'm old enough to have lived through Vietnam, and I certainly don't want to see that happen again,” Stimmel says. “We're not making any friends in several other countries that we used to be strong friends. And the activity in the Middle East and North Korea, it's troubling.”

Emily Johnson  

Johnson and her husband, Nick, of Ames, Iowa, brought their three children — including a baby swaddled on her chest — to a Pete Buttigieg town hall event in Ames.

Johnson says she’s leaning toward Warren, Biden and Klobuchar.

Nick and Emily Johnson of Ames, Iowa, and their kids, Norah, 4, Oliver, 9 months, and Zoe, 7, and Deborah Blaedel of Ames, Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller for Here and Now)
Nick and Emily Johnson of Ames, Iowa, and their kids, Norah, 4, Oliver, 9 months, and Zoe, 7, and Deborah Blaedel of Ames, Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller for Here and Now)

“Some of it is I like their policy positions. Some of it is I like the experience. Some of it is electability. I think I will make the decision on Monday,” she says. “I'm hoping still to see Warren. And I feel like when I see people, it brings up different things for me and why I will or will not support them. So I'm still … I don't know. I think I'll be a last minute voter.”

Johnson says she wants a president “who I respect, who I think respects other people, who my children can look up to instead of saying, 'This is what you do not do.' And somebody who will kind of heal us and bring us together.”

She says her dream for 2020 would be no more Trump.

“I want to feel good about being here and being American and being able to have somebody in the White House that I think is a good person and wants the best for our country,” Johnson says. “And that's just not the case right now.”

Hope and Kim Bossard 

Hope Bossard and her husband, Kim Bossard, were in Nevada, Iowa. They say they’re trying to see all of the candidates they can in person.

“We're just visiting all the candidates we can right before the [caucus], so we know what they're up to and we have a better caucus,” Kim says.

“We're making the rounds. We went to someone yesterday. We're going to someone the next couple days,” Hope says. “So we're doing our best to be informed, and to be honest, what you see in the commercials is not what you see when you have the opportunity to hear them in person. And it's really valuable.”

Kim and Hope Bossard of Radcliffe, Iowa. (Alex Ashlock for Here & Now)
Kim and Hope Bossard of Radcliffe, Iowa. (Alex Ashlock for Here & Now)

The Bossards were at a town hall for Yang, but they haven't decided who they'll caucus for. Hope says her most important issue is the environment.

“I think environment is No. 1 and values, too, is part of it,” she says. “The corruption is just out of control in Washington, and that's really a problem for me. I think our democracy is at risk.”

She says her American dream this year is that people will recognize the “responsibility” they have as Americans.

“I guess that we start to realize we all have a responsibility to make things better and that it's not something we're entitled to, but something that is just required to be an American,” she says. “So get off our tushes and let's get to work.”

Alex Ashlock and Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on January 30, 2020.


Headshot of Jeremy Hobson

Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.


Headshot of Chris Bentley

Chris Bentley Producer, Here & Now
Chris Bentley is a producer for Here & Now, where he has produced daily news and features since 2015. Chris came to the show from Chicago.


Headshot of Alex Ashlock

Alex Ashlock Producer, Here & Now
Alex Ashlock was a producer for Here & Now since 2005. He started his WBUR career as senior producer of Morning Edition in 1998.



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