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What voters and 2020 Democrats are saying at the Iowa State Fair

Six months before the Iowa caucuses, nearly all the 2020 Democrats are visiting the state fair, considered a major venue for presidential candidates. Amid the fried food and festivities, they made their pitches to voters -- and broadly condemned President Trump’s language on race. Lisa Desjardins talks to Amna Nawaz about which candidate names she’s hearing most and fairgoers' feelings on Trump.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Just about all of the Democratic presidential hopefuls are paying a visit to the Iowa State Fair, six months ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

    Amid the festivities and all the fried food, the candidates made their pitches to Iowa voters. Now, some are choosing this occasion to go further than they have previously on the president's language around race.

  • Joseph Biden:

    Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. Even his supporters know who he is. We have got to let him know who we are. We choose unity over division. We choose science over fiction.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, during a visit to an Iowa farm, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren called the president himself a white supremacist.

    At the state fair, Julian Castro told "NewsHour"'s Lisa Desjardins that he agrees.

  • Julian Castro:

    He's actively fostering division and hate in our country.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You think he's a white supremacist and a racist?

  • Julian Castro:

    Yes, I think that's the kind of — yes, I think he's a racist. I think that he believes — it seems like he believes that white people are better than or superior to other people, unfortunately.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And Lisa joins me now from the Iowa State Fair.

    Lisa, I want to ask you about Mr. Castro's comments in a moment.

    But let's start with the Iowa State Fair. It's kind of a starting bell for the presidential primary race. What are all the candidates doing right now to win voters?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's exactly right.

    Sort of think of this as almost a political free-for-all, barely organized political free-for-all, but with your favorite bad-for-you foods involved.

    I would just say, Amna, that we have seen something new here, which is a real crush of reporters which is especially around Vice President Biden. He doesn't give as many appearances as some other candidates.

    So there was a lot of interest in the vice president — former vice president yesterday, and especially around that topic of the idea of whether the president is a white supremacist.

    Vice President Biden did agree in the end with Elizabeth Warren. And as much as these candidates — and we will get to it — really want to talk about other issues, this idea of race and divide in this country seems to be dominating the conversation on the left.

    I also asked the same question about, how do you label the president, should you label the president this way to John Delaney and Andrew Yang today.

    Andrew Yang agreed he's a white supremacist. John Delaney and Tulsi Gabbard, they said: We don't think it's useful to go there.

    It's a difficult issue for these Democrats. And it's important not just in terms of those who want to talk about who the president is and what he represents, but, politically, it's very important because Iowa voters here, when you talk to them, they're not comfortable, most of them, even some Democrats, with labeling the president as a racist.

    Here in Iowa, many people I talk to you believe that to label someone racist or white supremacist, you have to know their intent.

    Obviously, that's a big debate. Many Democrats disagree with that. It's their actions that matter. But it's a politically very difficult subject. Some Democrats are moving farther faster than others.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa, tell me about what you're hearing from the Democratic voters in the crowd there. Does this kind of thing matter to them? How are they assessing the candidate field right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Amna, this has been eye-opening and fascinating. And, for me, the best part of the fair is just talking to the voters here in Iowa.

    And I have to tell you, Elizabeth Warren, I keep hearing her name. She's clearly on the rise in this state. And it's not just her name recognition and her appeal. Her organization has been on the ground longest, and they seem to be really that muscle that they have been flexing in numbers of people knocking on doors is starting to pay off very quickly.

    Also, you're hearing a few other names. Like, I think we need to keep an eye still on Pete Buttigieg. Kamala Harris, of course, gets a lot of mention. And I think dark horses, I'm still hearing some mentions of Tulsi Gabbard.

    I think, though, Amna, the bigger story here — it's still six months out, of course, but Democrats here in Iowa are very undecided. It doesn't seem like they passionately feel strongly about any one candidate, perhaps with the exception of the Elizabeth Warren supporters.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa, there's obviously potential Republican voters at the state fair too. You have been talking to a lot of them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What are they telling you about how they're viewing what's going on right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is the other fascinating thing.

    President Trump is very strong here in Iowa. And even some Democrats who said — who told me that they were Democrats said they think the president is doing a good job, some of them farmers who say they think the president's trade policy, while it may be hurting some of them right now, is something that they believe in long-term.

    They also think that Democrats may be going too far when it comes to, say, immigration. And they really — I just can't stress enough the strength of President Trump here in this state. Remember, he won Iowa by nine points.

    Democrats really need to win in states like Iowa in order to regain the White House. And here at the Iowa State Fair, he's very popular. I think, most of all, those who support the president believe that he represents a kind of pride in America that they don't see from the Democrats.

    Democrats totally disagree. But that's a message that they're not getting across to these Republican Trump fans who are certainly out here at the fair.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa, you mentioned trade. You mentioned immigration.

    Are those some of the top issues to Iowans right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

    Quickly, I think also health care. I spoke to several mothers, families, one mom working three jobs, another with three children, who say that they are depending on Obamacare.

    This is something that the Democrats are going to have to rely on to do well in a state like this. And it's something that could help Joe Biden.

    One Biden voter, a mom who's raising her 3-year-old, said she needs that kind of health care. And she really appreciates Joe Biden and Obamacare. That is a winning issue right now for Democrats in this state.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Our Lisa Desjardins on the ground for us at the Iowa State Fair, good to talk to you, Lisa.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You too.

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