The Trump campaign has announced plans to flood Iowa with supporters on the stump Monday for the first votes in the 2020 race for the White House: the Iowa “caucuses.” Obama won Iowa by almost 6 points in 2012. Trump won it by 10 points in 2016. The early caucus votes don’t necessarily pick the ultimate winner, but they can give candidates momentum. Scott Thuman recently spent a week in Iowa.
Just as every four years, Iowans can rely on cold winters countered by hot political rhetoric, they can also count on seeing some of the same candidates again. They’re familiar with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and other big names trying to hit all 99 counties.
But this cycle, there are some youthful newcomers and self-described outsiders, causing voters to give a second glance. Pete Buttigieg, once the country’s youngest mayor of a city with more than 100-thousand residents was packing gymnasiums and old factory floors with those who believe his youthful energy is just what the party needs.
Dan Fillius: Biden’s got a lot of great experience and I’ll vote for him if he’s the guy, but at the same time I do think that it’s time to have some new ideas.
Buttigieg, a true millennial, turned 38, the day after our interview.
Scott: There are a handful of candidates at this point and who are roughly twice your age. Does American need a younger President?
Buttigieg: Well I do think that America is ready to turn the page and one way to do that is by empowering a new generation of leadership. You know the last 50 years winning Democratic nominees have had certain things common - being new on the scene, not having run for president before, not being viewed as creatures of Washington.
But his youth isn't the only way he's opening minds.
Scott: How big of a factor do you think being openly gay either helps or hurts you in this race?
Buttigieg: Yeah, I actually don't think that it will be that big of a factor on most voters’ minds. And I say that because I think every election fundamentally it's about one question that a voter is asking and it's how's my life going to be different if you're President instead of you. If I have the best answer to that then I think a lot of these other things kind of wash away.
At an Andrew Yang event in Newton, Iowa, the American Legion was a solid mix of the already committed, and just plain, curiosity seekers. Those wondering, who is this entrepreneur getting people to wear MATH hats...that’s ‘make america think harder’. Voters are getting an altogether different vibe, via the yang-gang--supporters who literally have lifted him, to a popularity few could have predicted.
Fran Henderson: Well, this is a candidate we haven’t seen and we just thought we should take an opportunity to see him.
Rich Henderson: He’s got some completely different ideas.
He too had a birthday on the trail, turning just 45.
He’s definitely breaking out, by breaking the norms, like hosting our interview in New York, over a game of basketball.
Scott: You were labeled the internet’s favorite candidate. How do you get that to translate to the voters’ favorite candidate?
Yang: We’re going through the greatest economic transformation in our country’s history and we need big solutions and a new way forward, like my freedom dividend of a thousand bucks a month for every American adult which we can totally afford.
Scott: So you would defend against the critics who might ever label that a gimmick?
Yang: For Jody Fassey in New Hampshire it was car repairs to visit her daughter. For Mallory Shannon in Florida, it was heading back to school at the age of 68. So that’s what the thousand bucks a month means in real life.
Long time journalist Kathie Obradovich says the new names are also bringing updated issues to the table.
Kathie Obradovich: I think that they bring something different into the discussion, so you know, Andrew Yang for example talking about the future of the workforce with AI you know he’s a computer guy, that kind of thing I think probably wouldn’t have been discussed very much in this race had he not been here---Pete Buttigieg of course bringing a generational perspective in saying that, there are people who are serving in the wars that I served in, who weren’t even born when they started, those kind of messages help maybe older voters sort of connect with the fact that we’re voting on peoples futures here, not just us, the older generation.
Certainly not *as* young but still fitting that ‘came-out-of-nowhere’ mold, is billionaire Tom Steyer--who’s spent more than 100 million dollars of his own money and touting causes that often take a back seat.
Steyer: You know I have a history as an outsider. I'm also the only person Scott who will say that climate is my number one priority. The only one I know other people care about climate but I'm the only one person I'll say it's my number one priority that I come at it from.
He’s now attracting mosh pits of media and trending enough, that even his tartan tie has its own Twitter page. To Iowans, it’s a an abundance of riches, getting to choose from the tried and true who polls show, may best be able to beat Trump--or the fresher faces with their own way of enthusing.