2020年1月30日 星期四

On Politics: Everyone Wants a Piece

If you support a lower-tier candidate in Iowa, don’t be surprised if people look at you … hungrily.
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By Lisa Lerer

Politics Newsletter Writer

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s tater tot hotdish.Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — Is Senator Amy Klobuchar the key to the Iowa caucuses?

Maybe. But not for the reason you might think.

Sure, Ms. Klobuchar is running a vigorous campaign in the state. Stuck in the Senate for the impeachment trial most of the week, she flew back for a hastily scheduled event in Council Bluffs on Tuesday night. Her daughter, Abigail Bessler, has been traveling across Iowa in her stead, wooing voters with Ms. Klobuchar’s family hot dish recipe.

But in poll after poll, Ms. Klobuchar still hasn’t hit the 15 percent threshold needed to win delegates. Her standing hints that her supporters could be up for grabs on the second ballot in many precincts. And four days before the caucuses, rival camps are already coming courting, trying to increase their margins by scooping up some of her caucusgoers.

Call it the second-place shuffle.

“Second choice matters,” said Norm Sterzenbach, a caucus adviser to Ms. Klobuchar. “You have to be careful in how you talk about not only your own candidacy and your strengths but the strengths of the other candidates as well.”

Already, aides to former Vice President Joe Biden reached out to Ms. Klobuchar’s team to try to broker a caucus-night alliance — and were rebuffed, according to her advisers. Her team says she’s running to win in Iowa and plans to remain in the race at least through the New Hampshire primary eight days later. There are no plans to direct her backers to a second choice.


But chances are, if you’re a lower-tier candidate, your supporters are being eyed by the higher-ups like a heaping serving of hot dish.

Andrew Yang said he anticipated that much of his backing would naturally gravitate to Senator Bernie Sanders, though he declined to give the “Yang Gang” specific directions.

“The people that support my campaign are very diverse in their leanings,” Mr. Yang told reporters. “I frankly think I’d have a hard time getting them to do anything that they weren’t naturally inclined to do.”

With nearly 1,700 caucuses across the state, even some of the higher-polling candidates are unlikely to make the 15 percent threshold in all of them. On Wednesday, the former mayor Pete Buttigieg declined to point his supporters toward another candidate when asked by reporters.


This isn’t the first time Democratic strategists have tried to play a game of caucus chess. In 2008, some supporters of Bill Richardson flocked to Barack Obama after rumors circulated of a pact between the two campaigns — even though they were denied by both camps.

How these kinds of efforts will actually play out is harder to predict, say old Iowa caucus hands. In the moment, individual caucuses can be chaotic, making it hard to pull off the kinds of deals that the campaigns and their top aides might like to strike.

Even more important, voters often think about the race in ways the political experts might not anticipate. That may be particularly true this year when many caucusgoers are considering a wide — and ideologically diverse — field of candidates.

At an event for Mr. Buttigieg on Wednesday evening, Ginger Thompson, 63, said she was considering Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Yang. “I think Bernie and Biden are too old,” said Ms. Thompson, a retiree. “They’re younger, and to me, it seems they give us hope.”


Facing a big field packed with well-known names, Democrats sometimes seem as if they want to back multiple people at once. In town hall meetings, voters have frequently asked the candidates whom they would consider as a running mate.

On Jo Walter’s list? Mr. Buttigieg, along with Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“Well, they’re all Democrats. We got to get the Trumpster out of there,” said Ms. Walter, an emergency medical technician from Clarksville. “None of them are anything like him.”

Maggie Astor contributed reporting from Des Moines.

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The final countdown

With just four days remaining before the Iowa caucuses, we're all in the homestretch before voting begins. I was curious how the candidates are ending their campaigns in this crucial state. Fortunately, I have a whole bunch of friends who can help answer that question.

Here’s what our campaign reporters are hearing from the leading candidates as they crisscross the state:

Astead Herndon:

Elizabeth Warren has shifted away from her policy focus in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. Instead, she’s making the case that she’s best suited to beat President Trump and unite the Democratic Party. The plans are still there, but she focuses on rooting out Washington corruption and outlining her path to victory more.

Reid Epstein:

Pete Buttigieg is closing his Iowa campaign by pitching himself as the arbiter of a new era in American politics, attacking Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and calling for the party to move past the “the same Washington playbook.”

Thomas Kaplan:

Joe Biden is emphasizing the need to defeat Mr. Trump. He’s leaning hard into contrasting himself with the president, speaking of bringing people together and unifying the country, and telling voters that “character is on the ballot.”

Sydney Ember:

Bernie Sanders’s closing argument has hardly differed from his core message: He is fighting for the working class, emphasizing “Medicare for all” and climate change. But he is also focusing more than ever on voter turnout, and his campaign is urging people to “fight for someone you don’t know.”

And me:

Amy Klobuchar is casting the election as a “decency check” on Mr. Trump, arguing that she can unite the country — including moderate Republicans — around the idea of restoring American values.

The week in impeachment

With the impeachment trial possibly headed toward its conclusion after a wild week, my colleague Noah Weiland, who writes our Impeachment Briefing newsletter, volunteered to catch us up on the latest. Here’s what happened this week:

  • The trial could end in the next few days. In the last 48 hours, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and the rest of the Republican leadership team have rallied their senators against tomorrow’s vote to hear new witnesses and consider more evidence, effectively shutting down the trial and speeding toward a presumed acquittal. Mr. McConnell argued that opening the trial to witnesses would extend it indefinitely and introduce a degree of uncertainty that would cede control of the proceedings to Democrats, who are eager to call several top current and former White House officials to testify.
  • John Bolton could be left hanging. The Times reported on Sunday night that Mr. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, had submitted to the White House a draft of his upcoming book. In it, he gave a firsthand account of Mr. Trump’s conditioning security assistance to Ukraine on help with investigations into Democrats. The revelation threatened to turn the trial on its head — Republicans suddenly anticipated a majority vote to hear witnesses, and began to suggest that they would call Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, in a kind of witness exchange. Within days, though, the prospects of a Bolton appearance had seriously declined.
  • We finally heard from senators on the Senate floor — sort of. Yesterday and today, Democrats and Republicans had a chance to ask the House managers and White House lawyers anything related to the impeachment inquiry. Their questions, submitted in writing and read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts, were wide-ranging: about the definition of obstruction, the history of security aid to Ukraine and the whistle-blower whose complaint led to the inquiry. Many of them were merely prompts from one party to its respective side to deliver talking points, including a response from White House lawyers that showed a startlingly expansive view of executive power.
  • Democrats warned that a trial without witnesses would be illegitimate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that if the Senate refused to call new witnesses or subpoena more documents, Mr. Trump’s acquittal would not count. “He will not be acquitted,” she told reporters at her weekly news conference. “You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial, and you don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.”

Subscribe to the Impeachment Briefing here.

… Seriously

O.K., I know this is two days old, but I can’t stop watching it: Michael Bloomberg shaking a dog’s mouth.

Has he ever met a dog? Why would you stick your hand in a strange dog’s maw?

It’s all so confusing.

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