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How Trump and 2020 Democrats are talking to Iowa voters

With only days remaining before the Iowa caucus, President Trump traveled to Des Moines Thursday to rally his supporters. Trump’s campaign events are known for their raucous energy and concert-like atmosphere, in contrast to the small, intimate gatherings that 2020 Democrats are holding as they head into primary voting. Stephanie Sy reports from the Drake University site of Trump’s rally.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With just a few days to go before the Iowa presidential caucuses, Mr. Trump lands in Des Moines this evening to rally supporters.

    National correspondent Stephanie Sy is at the site of the rally at Drake University.

    Hi, Stephanie.

    So, the rally hasn't started yet, but tell us about the atmosphere.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Well, it is just electric.

    These rallies feel like rock concerts. And I think that is by design. As soon as you walk into the auditorium — and, by the way, there are more than 7,000 people that can fit into this auditorium, and I imagine it will be packed, if past is prologue at these Trump rallies.

    But as you walk in there, are bright lights, there is rock music blaring through amplifiers. They amp up the crowd this way. And you can really feel that energy.

    President Trump is due to speak here just hours after he gives a speech in Michigan in which he's expected to tout that trade deal, the free trade deal that he signed with Mexico and Canada.

    We would expect that he would also tout that accomplishment here at this rally.

    You know, I spoke to a Trump supporter right before I came on the air, and he compared Donald Trump to Garth Brooks, saying, President Trump is the Garth Brooks of politics. He wasn't all this interested in politics. He didn't even vote for Trump in 2016.

    But here he is at this rally planning to vote for Trump in the election in November, because he feels like he speaks to him, and he feels like he was never interested in politics until this candidate took the stage.

    This rally, Judy, also a reminder of whoever ends up being the Democratic standard-bearer is up against, these raucous, highly energetic rallies of several thousand people. That, undoubtedly, is part of the Trump campaign's strategy four days ahead of the Iowa caucus, is to remind folks of the muscular support that he has here in Iowa, which he won by nine points in 2016.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that reminds me, Stephanie. You have been talking to voters who are going to those Democratic caucuses. What can you tell us about the state of their race?

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Well, I will tell you, we have been to six presidential campaign events in the last three days.

    And those events contrast greatly with what we're seeing at this rally. It seems like the strategy for the Democratic candidates this week is to hold small, intimate events, where they can get their message across, where they can make eye contact with voters, where they can shake their hands, maybe answer a few questions at town halls.

    You will hear about them talking — you will hear them talking about substantive policy issues, the policy platforms, but every single one of them will talk about beating Trump.

    And we did attend one of Vice President Joe Biden's events today in a suburb of Des Moines. Again, it was in a high school gymnasium. About 175 people gathered. It was a highly staged event. And every single time the vice president mentioned beat Trump, that's when he got the biggest applause line.

    As you know, Judy, the polls right now showing a very tight race at the top, so you really get the sense that candidates are desperate for every single vote.

    And, in fact, after Vice President Biden gave this grand stump speech, he had a very humble message at the end, which was, basically: Please help me. I need you to vote on Monday.

  • Judy Woodruff:


    Stephanie Sy there reporting for us from Des Moines just a few days away from the caucuses.

    Thank you, Stephanie Sy.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    My pleasure.

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