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Iowa Democratic voters feel excitement, pressure ahead of critical caucuses

Three days before the Iowa caucuses, 11 candidates remain in the 2020 Democratic primary. Polls indicate that many likely caucus participants are still undecided about whom they will support. In a state that is predominantly white, the candidates are striving to appeal to its growing minority population -- and position themselves as able to beat President Trump. Stephanie Sy reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we turn to Iowa, just three days out from Monday's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

    There are still 11 Democrats remaining. Polls show many likely Democratic caucus-goers are still undecided.

    And as national correspondent Stephanie Sy reports, in a state that is predominantly white, candidates in this tight race are trying to tap into the growing minority population.

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    So can I look to you to spread this as a hope that is needed in order to bring about change in this country?

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    This is our time to dream big!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    Iowa started the revolution. In Iowa, let's complete the revolution.

  • Joseph Biden:

    The character of the nation is on the ballot.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    In this crowded Democratic field, no candidate has broken away from the pack, and a lot of Iowans we spoke to haven't made up their minds.

  • Renita Bayliss:

    I'm undecided, and now that it's coming down to the wire, I would like to see that someone could persuade me to have a clear-cut decision.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    But there's no lack of enthusiasm here.

  • Cher Carroll:

    This is actually the first time I'm actually going to participate. So I'm looking forward to it. I had the attitude of, it doesn't matter. But it — our votes matter. So…

  • Stephanie Sy:

    For many Iowans, the stakes have never been higher.

    Veteran Iowa political journalist O. Kay Henderson:

  • O. Kay Henderson:

    They're anxious about this. They sort of feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. You know, I have had people tell me they lay in bed at night thinking about the candidates and which one they think they should choose. So they're really, really wrestling with this choice.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And candidates only have a couple days left to convince them.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    I'm going to Council Bluffs.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Engaging voters is so essential that Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar took advantage of a break in the president's impeachment trial to dash to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a trip lasting less than a day.

  • O. Kay Henderson:

    You have five leading candidates here, if you include Amy Klobuchar in that mix. And they're all drawing sometimes hundreds and sometimes over 1,000 people at events here in Iowa, which shows you, there is interest, there is enthusiasm.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Henderson says the nearly 1,700 precincts are preparing for a record turnout, driven partly by new efforts to engage Iowans, like the ones at this mock caucus, that might not normally turn out.

    That includes a rising number of non-white voters. More than eight in 10 Iowans are white, but the number of black, Latino, and Asian residents have multiplied in the last 10 years.

    Do you think that Iowa should have as much leverage as it does in choosing the Democratic nominee?

  • Joel Hade:

    That's a difficult one to ask an Iowan. I would say, it seems a little odd to me. I enjoy it, because, for many years I have gotten to see these candidates come through. But, in reality, perhaps we aren't as representative as some other areas of the country.

  • Alba Perez:

    How many have participated in caucuses before?

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Alba Perez, a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Honduras nearly 40 years ago, is trying to engage potential caucus-goers that are new to the process, holding a sort of caucus 101 session in Des Moines.

  • Alba Perez:

    I want the country that adopted me and that I have seen to be welcoming to me in many ways, that changed dramatically during the 2016 elections, and a lot of the conversations changed. I don't want to feel insulted. I don't want to feel attacked.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Perez, who is backing Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, believes candidates can no longer ignore minority voters here.

  • Alba Perez:

    They may not be significant now, but will become significant.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And these campaigns know, in a tight race, every vote counts, whether it's volunteers making calls at Warren's Iowa City headquarters.

  • Man:

    She has a record of showing that she's willing to fight for people.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Or organizing canvassers in a predominantly black neighborhood, like at this field office for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • Chris Schwartz:

    Turnout is everything. And we have done a number of great things to make sure that our diverse coalition turns out.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Just across the Cedar River, Pastor Frantz Whitfield, the influential head of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church, is an outspoken advocate for Vice President Joe Biden.

  • Frantz Whitfield:

    I think it's crucial. You have to have the African-American vote if you're planning on winning the White House.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    In 2016, Pastor Whitfield endorsed Sanders, but, this election, his priorities have shifted.

  • Frantz Whitfield:

    One of the reasons why I decided to change my mind this go-around is because we need somebody in the White House who knows what they're doing, someone who doesn't need on-the-job training, and I feel, again, that Joe Biden is that best choice.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    For Whitfield and many Democrats across the country, the number one priority is beating Trump.

  • Man:

    I will accept any Democratic selection, period.

  • Woman:

    I will vote blue no matter who.

  • Jerry Perkins:

    I want whoever is electable. I want somebody who can beat Donald Trump.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The problem is, no one really knows who that is. It's why so many Democratic caucus-goers here in Iowa still seem scared to commit. They're looking beyond this state, stuck in the impossible calculus of trying to figure out who can win in November — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you, Stephanie Sy.

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