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Can candidates translate Iowa enthusiasm into caucus support?

A week out from the start of voting in the race for president, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR sit down with Judy Woodruff to discuss the candidates’ rush in Iowa and other early states to garner solid support from voters.

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    In the race for the White House, we're just one week away now from a new phase in the campaign, when actually people start to decide.

    And that means the candidates are all over the map, working to garner support in those early voting states. Republican front-runner Donald Trump told an Iowa crowd he was confident that his supporters would stick with him.

  • DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate:

    My people are so smart. And you know what else they say about my people, the polls? They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that, where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible.



    But, in Iowa today, Trump's closest rival, Ted Cruz, tried to pull voters away, pushing back at the Republican front-runner's recent attacks on immigration and other topics.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: He is now insulting me everyday. He can do that. That is his prerogative. I do not intend to respond in kind.

    And, indeed, that's exactly the way I have responded to every candidate in the field. When others have engaged in attacks and insults, I will not respond in kind, because I think the people of Iowa, the people of New Hampshire, the people of South Carolina, the people of this country deserve better.


    There's another question in Iowa, though, and that is, whose supporters will actually show up to caucus? Both Trump's campaign and the team behind Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders have been reaching out to their Iowa supporters with online videos on just how caucusing works.

  • WOMAN:

    The caucuses are a secret ballot. If you can write T-R-U-M-P, you have just caucused for Donald Trump.

  • MAN:

    It's 6:59, let's get off the boards. I got to make the point. If you're not here by 7:00, you won't get in.


    And the Sanders camp isn't just focusing on getting out the vote. It's also trying to dent Hillary Clinton's liberal credentials. In the last few weeks, Sanders has focused his attacks on the speaking fees she has collected from Wall Street.

    Yesterday, Clinton responded.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: You know, first of all, I was a senator from New York. I took them on when I was senator. I took on the carried-interest loophole. I took on what was happening in the mortgage markets. I was talking about that in 2006. They know exactly where I stand.


    And that brings us to Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Can you believe it? It's just one week away.


    I can't believe it at all.



    How long have we been waiting for this?

    So, Tamara, you were in Iowa toward the end of last week. You spent several days there. Let's talk about the Democratic race first, where it is — seems to be tighter than the Republican race, although we don't know. We will find out.

    But what are you hearing voters say about Clinton and Sanders?


    Well, they are certainly engaged. They're showing up to their events.

    And the candidates are trading barbs now. This is for real. It's getting close, and the candidates are painting each other — Hillary Clinton is painting Bernie Sanders as an idealist, as someone who has ideas that can't really get done. She, while I was there, rolled out some new attack lines on that. Bernie Sanders is saying, why should we go with establishment politics?

    And I think that it is in some ways breaking through to voters. As you talk to them, you start to hear those lines echoed back in the interviews with voters at these events.


    Amy, what works at a time like this?

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Well, that is what we're all wondering, right, is, can you translate that enthusiasm into people showing up?

    And as you saw in that video, caucusing is not easy to do. You don't just walk in and spend five minutes and put your vote out for the person that you like. You have to commit yourself to a significant amount of time. The Democratic caucus is much more complicated and much more labor-intensive than the Republican side.

    So, getting people to show up, getting people, as Bernie Sanders more likely to do, to register — you can register on the day of the caucus as a Democrat — that all takes a great deal of time and a great deal of effort.

    And, remember, this is for just a tiny, tiny slice of all the people who are registered to vote in Iowa, too.


    And is there more pressure, Tamara, on Sanders and on Trump to get these — their supporters out? Because it appears they have more first time caucus-goers. If these people actually show up, they have more than the others do.


    Absolutely. They are counting on people who are these first-time caucus-goers to show up and caucus for them.

    Bernie Sanders is actually — his campaign has created a Web site. I think it's something like provethemwrongandcaucus.com. And it is designed to get those first-time caucus-goers, people who the establishment would say won't show up, to get them to show up.

    Donald Trump is very much pushing to get his people to show up. Their line is, if someone is going to stand outside in the cold and snow for seven hours, then why wouldn't they show up for two hours on a Monday night?

    But life gets in the way. And I think that everybody is talking a good game on their ground game right now, their effort to get people to the polls. I think we really, truly will not know until a week from tonight.


    And that's what we're — that's really what we will be looking for while we're out there on caucus night is what the lines look like to get into these caucus places, not just, are a bunch of people showing up?

    But when I talked to somebody who was there in 2008 on the Obama campaign, they said, we felt really confident in our chances when we saw the line to register. That means people who had never showed up before, who weren't even registered to vote. That line was snaking around the block.


    Yes, we remember the lines from 2008. And, by the way, I'm going to be out there with both of you next Monday night.

    But, in the meantime, Amy, this comment from Donald Trump about, "I could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and it wouldn't affect my support," does something like that have a bearing on people's thinking at this…


    About how we get — right, how we get to this next point?

    The question to me about Donald Trump is not do his supporters leave him, because he is correct that he has a core group of people who say they support him in polls. The one is, do they show up? The second is, just how big is that core?

    And so the question is not, where do his voters go? It is, where does everybody else go once the race starts to winnow down? Does he have enough support that if it is a two- person or a three-person race, he can still win?

    Now, there are some polls that have come out that show that he is still ahead, but, remember, this is a delegate race, not a popularity race, and so how those states break out will be critical.


    Good to be reminded of that. It's delegates, and not the popularity.

    But, Tamara, endorsements, I want to ask you both about that, because you had, significantly, the major newspaper in the state, The Des Moines Register, endorsing Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio on the Republican side.

    And then you had a few other notables, the senator, Republican Senator Joni Ernst, endorsing Rubio as well. What — do these endorsements matter at a stage like this?


    Well, and I'm not sure that she actually endorsed him. She appeared at an event with him. But I don't believe…


    She said something like, the country would be in good hands with his leadership.


    Yes, but she — I think that both she and Chuck Grassley are not officially endorsing.

    You know, it's an open question about how much these endorsements matter. I'm sure there are some people open up their Des Moines Register and say, all right, I guess that is the person I will go caucus for.

    But there is not a great record. On the Democratic side, The Des Moines Register has never picked an Iowa winner, at least not in many, many, many, many years. And on the Republican side, they have somewhat of a better record. But, based on the polls — and, obviously, things can change, and they can change quickly in Iowa, and there can be surprises.

    But, based on the polls as they are right now, Marco Rubio is not number one, or number two or even number three in a lot of them.


    How do you see this endorsement thing? We talk about it every four years.


    Yes, I know, and wonder what it matters.

    A lot of it is how this impacts the people doing the endorsing. Chuck Grassley, for example, he is up for reelection this year. He doesn't have a serious race, but if you were at all concerned about a primary challenge, you have got to make sure that you are touching every single Republican voter out there, especially those who might not have been engaged before.

    Joni Ernst, she is not up this next year, but she was elected on Tea Party enthusiasm. She can't afford to alienate any part of it. So it is as much about covering their own political tail as it is about showing support for somebody else.


    And in these last few seconds, Tamara, as we have heard, the Republican race — the Democratic race, it's tough, but the Republican race has gotten really nasty, with lying — they're calling each other liars.

    Does that go over well in a place like Iowa?


    I mean, people say they don't like negative politics, and yet every time there are negative ads, and they are pretty effective.


    Well, and that goes to show. Does Marco Rubio get a bump out of this, that the two front-runners, Cruz and Trump, going after each other so hard that someone comes up the middle, a little like John Edwards did and John Kerry did in 2004, when Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt went toe to toe?


    We remember those names.


    You remember those names from that long, long ago? It feels like…



    All right, the next time I see the two of you, it may be in — somewhere in Iowa.


    It will probably be warmer there than here.


    I think so. Less snow.


    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.


    You're welcome.

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