Feb 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The second-choice question

Sen. Amy Klobuchar at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

DES MOINES, Iowa — Conversations with Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang supporters highlight how the order of tonight's winners in Iowa could hinge on who makes the first cut.

Why it matters: Caucus-goers will be asked for their second choice if their preferred candidate falls short of a 15% threshold — a high bar in a race that still has so many candidates.

The state of play: The frontrunners according to polls — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden — each have been developing strategies to win over supporters of lower-tier candidates if they fall below that threshold.

  • A Monmouth University survey released last week found that 45% of likely caucus goers said they could change their mind about which candidate to support tonight.
  • “Klobuchar’s performance could be a real game changer in the final delegate allocation out of Iowa," Patrick Murray, the director of Monmouth University Polling Institute, told USA Today.
  • Biden surpassed Sanders (29% to 25%) in their polling when participants were asked how they'd caucus if Klobuchar and Yang fell short.

Voters drawn to Klobuchar's moderate brand of politics told Axios they liked the same of Biden, and at the end of the day it all comes down to who they think can actually beat President Trump in November. Some Buttigieg fans also overlap.

What they're saying: Mary Benton, a precinct captain for Klobuchar in Guthrie, Iowa, said she'd "switch to Biden if I had to."

  • "I think saving our democracy is more important than Medicare for All right now," she told Axios in the lobby of the Marriott hotel in downtown Des Moines.
  • Her husband, Tim, thinks Klobuchar can win over "post-industrial, Obama/Trump voters in the Midwest."
  • "I think a moderate centrist is important for this election as far as the electoral college is concerned," said Michael Adams.

Yang supporters we talked to expressed a wider range of second choices.

Jeff Thompson, 49, of Johnston is an independent voter who has supported Republican presidential candidates in years past, but detests President Trump and is inspired by what he sees as Yang's humanity and different approach.

  • If Yang falls short of viability, Thompson said he's open to supporting Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren or Biden but hadn't decided which.
  • "None of those would have gotten me to a Democratic caucus," Thompson said, but added that he'd back any of them in a general election as an alternative to Trump. 

Lori Wyble, 50, of Ankeny said she's drawn to Yang's message and feels that "he's kind of real" instead of a career politician. But if he falls short, her Plan B is Elizabeth Warren. 

  • "She's a woman. We need a change. And she's got balls, too."

The bottom line: Just because these supporters are ready to caucus for someone else doesn't mean the Klobuchar and Yang campaigns will end after Iowa — but it will send a signal to voters in other contests.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  6. 2020: North Carolina asks RNC if convention will honor Trump's wish for no masks or social distancing.
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America's unfinished business

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The fury over George Floyd's killing is erupting as the U.S. faces a looming wave of business bankruptcies, likely home evictions and a virus pandemic that will all disproportionately hit African Americans.

Why it matters: What these seemingly disparate issues share in common is that they emanate from systemic abuses that calls to action and promised reforms have yet to meaningfully address.

Deaths without consequences

Community organizations and activists demand police accountability at a rally in Grand Central Terminal to commemorate the 5-year anniversary of Mike Brown's death by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Photo: Erik McGregor/Getty Images

Seven years after the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement, it's still rare for police officers to be charged in the deaths of African Americans — and even more rare for an officer to go to jail.

The big picture: The Minneapolis police officer who was captured on video kneeling on George Floyd's neck has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter — which is already a step beyond the consequences other police officers have faced. But it's no guarantee that he will face jail time.