There are six months before Iowans will caucus on a cold February night, but the race to earn their support kicked off with some intensity this weekend. Candidates descended on the state fair and two different forums in this crowded and uncertain race.
Iowa Democratic voters take their role in kicking off the voting process tremendously seriously, and few are likely to commit to a candidate with certainty.
“We’re really coming to the end of the first half,” said Jeff Link, a veteran Iowa Democratic strategist who is unaligned this year. “I think you’re going to see people go into the locker room and make adjustments.”
“People are really starting to get interested, especially after one dropped out,” said Shawn Smith-Jones, who works for a legal insurance company and who backs South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, maintains a vulnerable lead. At least four other candidates have built challenging teams and earned substantial support in Iowa.
Biden has led in all but one public poll in Iowa conducted over the last seven months, but his chief rival has changed. At the beginning of the contest, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was polling in second place. But now Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have surged in the polls.
Both Warren and Harris drew larger and more enthusiastic crowds when they appeared at the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox stage at the Iowa State Fair than did Biden.
”We underestimate our capacity so, so badly. We’ve never lived up to it, but America is an idea. It’s the most unique idea in the world,” Biden told Iowans. “It’s time to remember who in God’s name we are.”
“I like Joe Biden. I think I would prefer someone younger,” said Laura Burkhalter, who works at a Des Moines art museum and cast her kernel for Warren. “It’s time that we had a woman president.”