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The Axe Files

THE AXE FILES In Iowa; Iowa, The Gateway To The Presidential Race. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 25, 2019 - 19:00   ET






ANNOUNCER: It's the first critical contest of the Democratic primary.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a big fan of the Iowa caucus process.

ANNOUNCER: The candidate's strategies.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: Time's up to stand there and take selfie after selfie but it's become kind of a core element of your campaign.

ANNOUNCER: The iconic events.

AXELROD: So you just lit people up at the Wing Ding.

ANNOUNCER: And the issue's driving caucus goers.

AXELROD: So it strikes me that at least from now to February, I'm sitting with some of the most powerful people in America.


ANNOUNCER: Welcome to THE AXE FILES in Iowa.

AXELROD: Iowa is the gateway to the Presidential race. And a bunch of people aren't going to make it. Pretty much you throw a stone in the state and you'll hit a Presidential candidate. They're all over the state. It had thousands of meetings and events and by August, you begin to see the contours of the race.

There's nobody in this race say perhaps Vice President Biden who knows more about the Iowa caucuses than you. What is unique about this first in the nation event?

SANDERS: I'll tell you something. I am a big fan of the Iowa caucus process. I think the people of Iowa understand the oversized role they play in the American political process and they take it seriously. So I suspect there are many, many thousands of people who will go to my rallies and events, will go to other candidates' rallies and really size up the candidates, think about the issues and try to decide which candidate best reflects their views.

That's pretty impressive.

AXELROD: I think it's fair to say that no candidate placed an earlier bad or a bigger bet on Iowa. How do you feel about the system here?

WARREN: I don't think it is so much is about politics as I do a better chance to meet with people so I've had a lot of chances for example, here in rural Iowa to talk with folks about what it means to lose the local hospital. That that's just a way to almost rip the heart out of a community because it means young families are not very likely the move in.

It means that seniors are worried that they're not going to have access to the care they need.

AXELROD: These conversations are two-way conversations.


AXELROD: Have they been formative in terms of your thinking on some of these, on some of these issues?

WARREN: Absolutely. I mean, that really is the heart of it. It's an extraordinary opportunity. It's - it's let me have a chance to meet people face to face.

AXELROD: So here we are, the Iowa state fair. This is one of those events that defined the Iowa caucuses that help define the course of a Presidential race. How important is this?

PAUL TEWES, IOWA STATE DIRECTOR, 2008 OBAMA CAMPAIGN: You know for me these big events do a couple of things. One. I think it's great for the candidate and the people to see them. I mean this is America. Look around, right?

AXELROD: One of the first calls that we made when Barack Obama was running for President was to call to see he had run Iowa for Al Gore in 2000. We wanted the best person to organize, the kind of campaign grassroots campaign that we envision.

TEWES: It's not just what the candidate is saying. I always think about Iowa, very important but it's also how they're interacting with everyday Americans. And you know do people get that image on the screen of that could be my President.

SUE DVORSKY, FORMER IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: The iconic image of that 2008 I think state fair with Barack Obama. The picture of him with the girls in bumper cars, that oh my God, it went, it's before I don't think we said went viral then. AXELROD: Sue Dvorsky is a big deal in Iowa politics and she's part of

a power couple, her husband having served 30 years in the state Senate, she having been the state party chair. Their ideas about what should happen in these caucuses are going to be well watched.

DVORSKY: Organizing door to door, day to day in the summer in Iowa is a lonely -

TEWES: And the winner.

DVORSKY: Can be a very challenging kind of thing. When we saw it, when organizers saw the joy, the excitement, that was real.

AXELROD: We gathered later for debate prep and I asked him how his day went. He said it was great. I had a great time, rode the bumper cars with my kids and I said, well this will be good prep for your debate because I think you can be playing bumper cars tomorrow too.


AXELROD: And he looked at me, you could see his eyes wide and he says, hey, I got to use that.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In order to prepare for this debate, I rode the bumper cars at the state fair.


DVORSKY: Smooth.

AXELROD: But it also wouldn't have happened had it not been at the Iowa state fair.

Senator, I don't want to put you on the spot right off the bat but the Minnesota state fair versus the Iowa state fair.


AXELROD: Which is a better state fair?

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, there you go. This will make me super popular in the Presidential caucuses. I am excited to go see the butter cow and I'm sure I will just you know go on and on and gush about the virtues of the cow but please remember the Minnesota state fair is the only one with the resolving refrigerator with the woman in the middle, car being 12 princesses butter bus that are displayed with tiaras.

AXELROD: Yes. I'm sure you're right about that. Montana's state fair, Iowa state fair, which is a better state fair?

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, now, you know - you know that I love Montana. That my family is flying n and they're darn excited actually to experience this. AXELROD: This is good. That's a Presidential level evasion. You come from a rural state, not a Midwestern state but a rural state. Is that advantageous as you move around?

BULLOCK: I think it is. I mean coming off of the coast, being able to go into community and actually listen to and understand what a farmer's facing when that's sixth generation farmer says to me, I don't know if I want my son to follow or going to community where one of their biggest concerns is losing that rural hospital when 20 percent of our rural hospitals are at risk because they know if they lose that hospital, they lose that community.

So I think it really does give you a perspective and the perspective that I'm grounded in.

AXELROD: What are the - what's the most common question that you're getting out there?

BULLOCK: I'll tell you what, in probably 30 different stops, no one ever asked me about impeachment. None but what they do talk about is, am I going to lose my rural hospital? How do we make sure that we can stay in these communities and have a decent job?

Donald Trump his normalize things that we could have never imagined becoming normal. How do we make sure that we can beat him and make our economy in Washington DC work for us?

AXELROD: Another issue that's impacting Iowa pretty dramatically is the trade war with China and you've had a tough line.


SANDERS: Our trade policy should not hurt farmers and ranchers in America and around the world.


AXELROD: Do you sense as you move around, a rest of miss about what the trade war with China -

SANDERS: Yes, of course.

AXELROD: - is that a vulnerability for -

SANDERS: I think it is. I think it is you know, farmers here in the Midwest export a lot of product to China and elsewhere and they are very concerned about Trump's trade policies and workers in general. Historically what we have had in terms of trade is a bunch of corporate leaders sitting behind closed doors with the pharmaceutical industry developing trade policy.

That's got to change. We need trade policy - it's a complicated issue, a lot of people involved in it but we need a trade policy that works for workers and farmers not just multinational corporations.

AXELROD: So one thing that I see hanging around in the last few days is that rural is suddenly cool. Do you feel a little bit like you were rural before, it was cool?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, for one thing my state is fourth in the country for agriculture production and I kind of think you can look at the words on a paper with the policy. We also have to look at what people have done with their power.

In my case, I've helped negotiate three farm bills now so when you really look back through my records and the bills that I passed and what I've done from animal vaccines to the nitty-gritty of energy policy, I think you'll see a record of someone that is stood up for rural every step of the way.

It's one of the reasons I win and also the red congressional districts every single time and I think the people of Iowa will start looking at that.

AXELROD: We're on I-35. There is this caravan headed to something called the Wing Ding and the world's attention will be on Clear Lake, Iowa. That is crazy.

TEWES: You know what, it's crazy but it's also beautiful. In the sense of the next leader of the free world has to go to a small town America and make their case and that's a wonderful thing.

DVORSKY: Yes, it is.

TEWES: What's great about the Iowa caucuses and the system in place here, is that you have to go to the Wing Ding.

AXELROD: You got to show up.

TEWES: You have to show up and you have to show up everywhere, you have to show up in rural America, you know city America, small town America, middle class America, poor America, fancy dinner America and over the - overtime, are you the same person? Are your answers consistent?


AXELROD: The Wing Ding dinner is one of the must do events in the Iowa caucus. And it's speed dating, all the candidates passed through in this iconic setting. The Surf ballroom where Buddy Holly played his last show.


KLOBUCHAR: It is great to be back here at the Wing Ding.

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We choose truth over lies. We choose unity over division.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And it is time for the United States of America to rise again.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to fight knowing that we have so much more in common than what separates us.


AXELROD: So yes, we're at the Wing Ding.


AXELROD: Which is an institution here.

HARRIS: I know. It's extraordinary.

AXELROD: California is - I know people are the same in some ways but it's a different political environment. It's a huge state.


AXELROD: But this is a completely different kind of thing.

HARRIS: I love it. It reminds me of how I campaigned from my first office, for elected office as DA. That was absolutely retail, that was walking up and down streets, it was knocking on doors, it was standing in front of grocery stores you know. I think I've told a story of me there with my ironing board set up as a standing desk.

You know with my posters on one side taped with duct tape, talking to people and requiring them to talk to me as they walked in and out of the grocery store.

AXELROD: Yes because these people here in Iowa, they take this pretty seriously.

HARRIS: Yes and this - I love that. They've made me a better candidate. From the first visit that I was here because people do take it seriously. They show up and they show up because they care, they show up because they know they're invested in the - and they show up prepared to challenge, prepared to listen, prepared to talk.

AXELROD: What do you think it is that people here are looking for?

HARRIS: I think what people want is they want to know that they are being seen and heard. And I think that what people want is they want to know that they're not being played. That we're actually interested, curious and responsive to the things that wake them up in the middle of the night and that could be health care. It could be what we're doing around education like my Teacher Plan.

In fact that idea and that policy was actually born out of my first visit to Iowa when I was meeting with teachers who were telling me about how they were working two and three jobs.

AXELROD: Do you feel like you're uniquely positioned that you can be - that calming influence that the country might be looking for?

HARRIS: I mean what I can tell you is it's a lived experience for me to know how much more we have in common than what separates us. What we're getting out of Donald Trump is not reflective of who we are by nature and who we are in terms of our aspirations and ideals.

But the other thing I'd say about it is this David, this guy came in making a whole lot of promises to working people and he betrayed them, passing so called trade policy by tweet, it - with unilateral gestures that I would say are born out of a fragile ego.

And have resulted in farmers here in Iowa looking at bankruptcy and soybeans rotting in bins. People want a problem solving President and someone who can unify the country, yes. And I - and I it is part of my mission to speak to our better angels and to speak to who we really are. I know who we are and we are so much better than this.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can I look to you to help us win not just the era but the future of this country?


AXELROD: To see you just lit people up at the Wing Ding.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, that was fun.

AXELROD: This is your first experience with the Iowa caucuses obviously. What are your observations?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's got its own energy, it's got its own culture and style. But what I love about it is, it's friendly. Don't get me wrong, it's a vigorous and fierce competition but people expect you and by the way, your supporters to interact well with each other and I think there's a kind of ethic about it that I appreciate.

And you know just a kind of spirit of the whole thing that I think really does bring us down to earth, off of the TV airwaves, out of the national picture and in the room with a bunch other fired up Democrats wanting to see where the future is going to be.

AXELROD: They are enquiring Democrats. You see them sometimes three and four and five times.


AXELROD: These people are not going to sign on the dotted line.

BUTTIGIEG: No, I'm talking a lot of people They say, I think you're fantastic, you're in my top 4. And I'm like that's what you get from me in a field of 25.

AXELROD: Yes, top 4 is pretty good.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes exactly, I'll take it but they're not going to give you that vote out easily. They really want to weigh and poke and prod your ideas and I think your character.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up on THE AXE FILES. AXELROD: This is a state that's overwhelmingly white. The argument is

not really reflective of the country as a whole, is that a fair criticism?



AXELROD: The caucuses are a unique exercise. You've organized for elections, you've organized for primary. This is a whole different animal.

TEWES: Yes. I mean a primary or an election for that matter is a close ballot. You know people go on the voting booths or vote from home and you don't need to tell people who you're voting for, it's very silent thing.

A caucus is public thing. You stand up. You have to in front of your friends, in front of your neighbors, declare who you're for. It's an hour to hour and a half, two hours depending on the size so it's a big commitment for people.

AXELROD: So when you're in that room some candidates don't have the 15 percent that they need to be viable and then they reconstitute themselves. In a regular election, there's no election hearing in the polling phase.


AXELROD: In a caucus, there's tons of election -

TEWES: It's crazy.

AXELROD: And it's all encouraged and it's part of the process.

TEWES: And it's friendly too.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama is polling better against Republican candidates and anybody else in the field. Look at all those people right there that are supporting him.

He's attracted independents. He's attracted Republicans, you've got to have those people to win in the general election.


AXELROD: It really does matter who people's second choice is, maybe who their third choice is.

DVORSKY: Yes. I do think this year, there's going to be a dynamic that's different. The imperative to win, the imperative to turn the page here is so great that I think there's going to be much more fluidity you know. I think people - I hear people all the time. Listen, I got two, I got three, I got four. AXELROD: So I will always remember flying somewhere with Obama and

Robert Gibbs, our Press Secretary hands some of us. The field guys in Iowa want you to call this young woman. She's a high school kid, 17- years old. They say she's a leader in her school and she can unlock 12 caucus votes.


And he grabs the phone, he calls her, he says, "Hey, it's Barack Obama." I'm just calling to talk about the caucuses and his - and then his face sunk and he said no, no, that's fine, sure. Hands the phone back to Gibbs, Gibbs says, well, what did she say?

He said, she said, she was going into class and could I call back later and he said man, this running for President thing is really humbling.

So it strikes me that at least from now to February, I'm sitting with some of the most powerful people in America because you guys are going to decide you know, who lives in this race and who doesn't.

TIM GANNON, FARMER: Iowans do take this seriously. They want - they want to meet people, they want to ask questions, they want to find out do we think this person has the ability to be the President of United States of America.

AXELROD: And have you - have you all met some of the candidates already?

BANNON: Absolutely.

AXELROD: Everybody huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's almost weekly, I mean, I could be busy three nights a week.

AXELROD: How are you thinking about this choice? Are you thinking about it more in terms of specific issues that candidates are putting forward? Are you looking at these candidates and saying who'd be the strongest in the fall against President Trump?

JEREMY YENGER, SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER: I would be thinking about it in terms of who's going to be strongest against Trump. For me you have to balance what do you want in a person versus what is appealing in the broad spectrum.

SARAH BOLTEN, DENTAL HYGIENIST: Yes, we need someone to get Trump out of office but that's not enough and we need someone who's inspiring that we agree with who can reach across the aisle.

LORI HUNT: It's not just like who can beat him but who has like that personality and those qualities that are lacking right now against him. You know, like empathy and character and honesty.

YENGER: Tim and I occupy Jasper county, a place that voted for Barack Obama twice and then voted for Trump so I really am looking for a candidate who I can talk to with people when I sit at my daughter's dance practices, when I sit at my son's karate practices, to me politics is piecemeal.

And we've got to make change in the piecemeal fashion. I don't want wholesale structural change. It won't happen that fast. So I'm looking for the candidate who I can pick off some of those independents and I can pick off a Republican here and I can pick off Republican there.

AXELROD: Does the age of the candidate mean anything to you in deciding or?

CORINNA KEEN, STUDENT: No, not really, not at all. Thinking back to like the 2016 election, I was going to Iowa state living in Ames at the time surrounded by young people and it was like Bernie nation and then when he didn't win the nomination, I knew so many people who didn't vote, who supported Bernie like hardcore.

So it's like thinking about electability and it's like thinking about millennials with low voter turnout. It's like we're going to lose if that happens again.

AXELROD: One of the big flair points has been should there be a Medicare for all system that would eliminate the private insurance industry. I sense but I maybe wrong that you had -

STEVE LOGSDON, RESTAURANT OWNER: You know, - to me, I'm not sure about that you know, health care is always very, very tricky. Some of the things that they have brought out like Bernie has really talked about free education for people. And I think Elizabeth Warren kind of came out and said free college.

I don't agree with that. You know there are some things that I like about them but overall, these are kind of unrealistic things.

JEANINA MESSERLY, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: Medicare or bust for sure. My sister has type one diabetes and without access to insulin, my sister would not be around. She's 17 years old. For me, Medicare for all means that we're not saying that you need - if you have a certain amount of money, you deserve to live over somebody else.

Every American deserves the right to left no matter how much money they make.

BOLTEN: That would be wonderful but it has to be paid for. They had chipped away at Obamacare and I'm afraid if we push Medicare for all then they're just going to chip away at that too.

AXELROD: The caucuses themselves, I think people don't really appreciate what that experience is like. This is a whole different thing. You have to stand up in front of your neighbors, declare your intentions.

YENGER: You're - you're talking about getting a bunch of people out in the middle of winter to stand up and publicly say I support this candidate or I support this one and then if they don't have liability, you got to jock around. BOLTEN: But it is an honor to be first in the nation.

AXELROD: Well, let me - let me ask you that. This is a state, it's overwhelmingly white.


AXELROD: The argument is not really reflective of the country as a whole. Is that a - is that a fair criticism?


HUNT: I'd say no. I think Iowa is kind of special. It's kind of like a microcosm of stuff because you can kind of you know, you can stay here in the morning and talk like rural issue, you know like urban issues like within the city and you know with immigrant issues and all. And then take a drive out for an hour, you're in Jasper County and you can talk like really, you know rural issues in agriculture and stuff.


BOLTEN: We may be under represented as far as minorities but you can see having Obama elected twice, I think there's a common sense and everyman quality here.

MESSERLY: I just don't think that it's fair to say that you can speak and discuss and have conversations about immigrant issues and then really know what immigrants go through on a day to day basis and undocumented people.

BOLTEN: But we can also be compassionate about that and be advocates for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people in Iowa are pretty smart about that.

MESSERLY: You can be compassionate but you -

BOLTEN: I have walked in your shoes though of course.

MESSERLY: Right and I just don't understand why - why the votes of a majority white, you were compassionate so you know how to vote for the minority communities.

BOLTEN: I know how to educate myself about issues and the compassion about people who aren't like myself and try and advocate for them.

MESSERLY: So let is advocate for another state that is a little bit more diverse.

KANIKA MAYES, ESTHETICIAN: I think what you're saying is that we're not represented and that's -


MAYES: And it's every day and I walk every day, I have a t-shirt that says yes, there are black people in Iowa because it's - it is a thing and I do want to see that - see a change happened with that. I do want to see healing. I do want to see reconciliation with minorities and with immigrants.

AXELROD: Speaking to you reminds me how seriously Iowans take their responsibilities here. On behalf of a resentful nation, thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got a President who is essentially literally bet the farms of my neighbors.

AXELROD: You make it sound as if this Presidential race is swirling around and then there's a real life.




SANDERS: The American people want us to move to a Medicare for all single payer program.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Health care should be a right and not a privilege.

BUTTIGIEG: Medicare for All who want to it.

BOOKER: No American should without health coverage.

AXELROD: These Iowans feel like they're vetting you guys, that they're here to thin the field down.


AXELROD: We spoke to a group of voters last night. They're very concerned about Donald Trump and some of them said even as they admired you, I don't know. I don't know if this big structural change is exactly right, right now. It's a little scary and it's maybe a little risky.

Is this a barrier for you here?

WARREN: No, I don't think so at all. I think this is actually our strength. You know, we want people to show up. It's got to be because they see that what we've got on the table is we understand what's broken. We got a plan for fixing it and we really are building a grassroots movement to make it happen.

I just don't think that folks are going to can engage to say maybe more of same. I think what they engage for is things that will touch their lives.

AXELROD: You had a town hall last night and the questions came up about Medicare for people. Plenty of people who are skeptical about it and if you believe polling, there is quite a bit of skepticism, not about the idea of Medicare for all but about the idea of doing away with private insurance.

Does that affect your thinking?

WARREN: Sure, it does and it tells me that the transition is really important as we negotiate the pieces to get there to a system that is sustainable. We got to make sure that we've got everybody at the table. The laborers are at the table and that they're getting full compensation so yes, there are a lot of pieces to get this right. You start by setting the goal and then aiming toward it.

AXELROD: Do you think that these older voters are more averse to kind of seismic changes that you've talked about including Medicare for all?

SANDERS: You know what, what is seismic is that 87 million Americans today are either uninsured or underinsured. You want seismic? Half a million people are going to go bankrupt this year because of medical bills they can't afford to pay. 30,000 people died. What is not seismic in my view is taking a popular program, Medicare which is the most popular health insurance program.

Which now is, people 65 years of age or older are eligible for, first to lower it to 55, then to 45, then to 35. Over a four-year period, make sure that everybody in this country has Medicare and comprehensive health care. Honest to God, I don't think that that is all that seismic, all that complicated, all that difficult.

AXELROD: These are not new positions for you.


AXELROD: You've been advocating them.

SANDERS: For decades.

AXELROD: For decades, yes. Does it bother you to have to try reclaim your own idea from Elizabeth Warren who you talked to her, it will be safe to say she's the hot candidate here right now.

SANDERS: Respectfully disagree but I think we're doing just fine. But to answer your question, no, it -- I'm proud. This is one of our product. You know when I came here in Iowa, four years ago or so, I talked about raising the minimum wage to 15 Bucks an hour.

Yes, radical crazy idea. Seven states have now passed that as has Congress, U.S. House of Representatives. I talked about making public colleges and universities tuition free, right? Radical idea. It is in fact taking place all over this country.

Talked about Medicare for all, radical idea. Ain't so radical right now so to answer your question. I feel proud that many of the ideas that I introduced four years ago that these ideas are now being spoken about by other candidates or by millions of Americans. I'm proud of that.

AXELROD: You are very clear that you are charting a more moderate course, you were I guess say pragmatic.

KLOBUCHAR: Proven progressive.

AXELROD: No, I understand. At some point, do you need to draw sharper distinctions with your opponents so that people understand what that choice is?

KLOBUCHAR: I do think there's distinctions. I made that clear in the debate. We all agree on the fact that we need to bring the health care costs down. That's something we agree on.


We disagree on how we do that. I have been a big proponent of the Affordable Care Act. I've always said it was a beginning and not an end and one of the major things we didn't accomplish was getting a public option which is a non-profit option where you can use the Medicaid or Medicare but it allows people to be covered and creates an option that does not involve private insurance.

I think that's a better way to go. I do not think that we should pick half of America off their current insurance in four years.

AXELROD: There's a debate that's erupting and it's going in two directions. One is focus on electability and then there's Elizabeth Warren, Berne Sanders making the argument for big bold structural change, Medicare for all and so on. You navigated around that debate to some degree on the debate stage. Do you think you need to draw those one more brightly here in Iowa?

BUTTIGIEG: I believe as much as anybody or more that we do need big and bold and transformative change. I also think that how bold you are is not always the exact same thing as how left you are and while I'm more progressive on a lot of these issues than some of the other Democrats.

And also have a view that I think would be considered moderate certainly compared to Bernie Sanders on some of these issues. To me it's not about finding the right dot on an ideological line because I think voters are less ideological than a lot of commentators think.

I do think it's problematic if we can't explain better than we have, what it would mean to kick millions of people off the plans they've not. Even for people who aren't wild about the plans they've got. That's the idea of my proposal on Medicare for all who want it. I expect that people would gravitate toward the public plan.

But I'm proposing it in a way that people can make that choice for themselves.

HARRIS: We cannot and should not over simplify the issues and in an attempt to put them in some ideological category. Certainly that's not how I think about it. Again, I think about what wakes people up in the middle of the night. People want to know they're going to have healthcare and they don't have a $5000 deductible when they need to take their kids to the emergency room. People want to know that we're going to have a plan for helping them

get through the end of the month which is why I'm proposing for families that make less than $100,000 a year, they get a $6000 tax credit they can receive up to $500 a month. Why?

Because almost half of American families are $400 unexpected expense away from complete upheaval. These are the things that people want to know that we're focused on and I don't - I don't think that - I know in fact that when they're waking up in the middle of the night, they're not thinking about it through the lens of the party with which they registered to vote.

When they're waking up in the middle of the night, they're not thinking about that issue through the lens of some simplistic demographics a poster put them in.

AXELROD: Congresswoman, you are the - you are one of the big success stories for Iowa Democrats and really Democrats around the country in 2018. You took a Republican held seat in eastern Iowa. What do you see now? Is that enthusiasm carrying through and how does it impact on this whole caucus process?

REP. ABBY FINKENAUER (D-IA): Well, the caucuses are always very interesting. We've got 20 some Presidential candidates here and they're traveling all across our districts and I've talked to some of them and I keep trying to reiterate you know, you can come here and do big rallies.

But at the end of the day, you've got to sit across the table from Iowans, ones that I'm talking to, even some who voted the other way last time and hear their stories about what's keeping them up at night and right now we're dealing with the prolonged trade war. That's truly I mean, we've got a President who is essentially literally bet the farms of my neighbors.

And hearing these heart-breaking stories of folks dipping into 401Ks, of worry about filing for bankruptcies, I mean, this is stuff that we're hearing about all the time on top of prescription drugs.

AXELROD: You make it sound as if this Presidential race is swirling around and then there's a real life.


AXELROD: And they're not interacting. They're not intersecting as much as they should.

FINKENAUER: You know I think they're all doing their best. They've got huge teams here which is exciting and a lot of energy and folks are turning out in huge numbers and that's great but at the end of the day my big thing is not how do you win in February but how do you win in November of next year and make sure that we don't lose my state.

We are Democrats. We are people who care about health care, making sure that every single person in this country gets it. We may have different ideas of how to get there but our values are the same and that I hope comes across these next months until the caucuses.

The values have to be there.


AXELROD: Holy smokes.

TEWES: I know. This has changed.

AXELROD: So where were you in here when you jumped on the table the night before the caucuses and exhorted people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Polls don't mean shit.



AXELROD: This is a church now.


AXELROD: Twelve years ago, you and I did a lot of praying in there ourselves bet that wasn't a church.

TEWES: Yes, it was - it the Obama headquarters in Iowa for almost a year. You know, it's kind of emotional little bit saying it. It's a special place.

AXELROD: Holy smokes.

TEWES: I know. This has changed.

AXELROD: They have classed up the place.

TEWES: Absolutely. This was all open and there were wires hanging off the ceiling in a way that -

AXELROD: I remember.

TEWES: You know and - you know, I think maybe once a month we vacuumed and -

AXELROD: And lots of lots of people coming through.

TEWES: Absolutely, great energy.

AXELROD: So where were you in here when you jumped on the table the night before the caucuses and exhorted people.

TEWES: It's right over there actually, right? And there this is kind of a big open area, bullpen. And for last like ten days, we'd have nightly countdown meetings. When the poll comes out, this is the famous Des Moines Register poll, it's always fairly accurate. Coming out dancing and you know really happy. And then there fast forward two seconds later, I can't get too happy because there are still 3 days left. So as seeing to me you know yelling at - not yelling but extolling -


AXELROD: I think yelling is



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really want everybody to know this. Polls don't mean shit. And if you think tonight that this is done, you're wrong. This is a close, close, close, race. And we're on the verge of making history - on the verge.


AXELROD: It's August, state fair, Wing Ding. If this were 12 years ago, what would be going on in this space?

TEWES: A lot of everything. You know, I think great campaigns are also you know they are good when the candidate's not around. And you know great campaigns are doing it all the time and you know we used to have a saying in the Obama campaign, I mean, in all campaigns is, people come for the candidate but they stay because of the campaign.

AXELROD: So everywhere I go, I say who has the best organization out there and they said Warren. What are you guys doing out there that is so impressing people.

EMILY PARCELL, IOWA STATE DIRECTOR, 2008 OBAMA CAMPAIGN & WARREN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: Well, we got here early. I've had a lot of people ask when did you make the decision that you were going to make a claim in Iowa. It was not even a conversation. It was like day one before even day one what's the Iowa plan?

AXELROD: Emily Parcell is a lifelong Iowan who started as an intern in the Al Gore campaign here in 2000. By 2008 she was the political director the Obama campaign and a star-star organizer. Elizabeth Warren shrewdly snagged Emily early and it's one of the reasons why she has such a formidable organization in the state right now.

PARCELL: The interesting thing about this campaign and I don't think it's unlike the Obama campaign. There's a real focus on building a community of supporters. One of our organizers runs a community garden, one of our organizers runs a 5K most weekends and people run with her and it's not always transactional.

It's not always about the politics. It's just like bringing people together and reminding us like community is where this country really gets the hard work done and the best work done.

AXELROD: Why did you make such a bet on Iowa?

WARREN: You know, I think of it as a bet on democracy. I really believed - I just in what I was fighting for as President, as a Presidential candidate. But how I would fight for it and so for me, it was about investing in democracy and that meant getting out there from the beginning, having people on the ground who would talk about it face to face, help us organize, house parties and chances to meet with people.

And spending my time not with the bazillionaires but outdoing town halls. You know I've done 121 of them so far and I don't know where we are on selfies, somewhere probably around 35000.

AXELROD: Yes, I want to ask you about that.

WARREN: That selfie line, that's a chance for people to tell me what they want to tell mw.

AXELROD: It's become kind of a core element of your campaign.

WARREN: It's a core element of democracy. Another way to say face to face. You can tell me what matters most to you.

PARCELL: I was not for the selfie line at the beginning. She descended that to me on our first trip to Iowa.

AXELROD: Why weren't you for it?

PARCELL: It takes so much time, David. It's like, we could probably do twice as many events in a day if we didn't have these selfie lines but she said these are important to me. It's people's opportunity to hear directly from me, tell me whatever they want to tell me. A lot of people aren't comfortable saying what they want to say in front of a huge audience and she takes that feedback.

It's like a running at one on one focus group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said to that Iowa, challenge accepted.

AXELROD: We just saw a couple of these soap-op speeches. All the candidates in the next few days will be making these speeches at the state fair. What do you look at as an organizer about the event?

TEWES: Iowa is for all intents and purposes, you're building a list, you're building a list of your supporters. You're trying to keep growing that list. You're trying to keep that list energized. Every conversation here matters. This isn't - Iowa is not just a 30 second ad. It's not just a soapbox.

So the key is follow up with them, continue talking, continue a conversation with them. So watching people get them signed up, watching people get them on the list so to speak, that's important.

DVORSKY: The young people working for every one of these candidates. 25 of these candidates are not going to be the eventual nominee. The conversations at the door over and over if you're doing it right, you're not talking, you're listening.

Those young people are out there ear to the ground and they are helping develop the message of the eventual nominee, whoever she or he is. ANNOUNCER: Up next.

SANDERS: I know David you would like to see it. Just happened to bring it with me.

AXELROD: Incredible that you would have this.

SANDERS: Just happened.



AXELROD: David Yepsen, you're an institution in Iowa politics. You were the lead political writer for the Des Moines Register for what, 34 years or something. It feels like it's early for the people who are seem to be in contention. For the others it's getting quite late to break into that top tier.

DAVID YEPSEN, HOST, IOWA PRESS, IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION: Historically, I think more of the role of Iowa is to winnow the field and then the race moves on to New Hampshire. That's why they call it, the tickets are out of Iowa.

AXELROD: Right. For years or it was always three tickets?

YEPSEN: I said there was first class, coach and stand by. In this environment electability is very important to these Democrats. More so than I remember being in the past, this thing has started. Early crowds are big. All the anecdotal evidence that politicians and reporters look at really says this is going to be a record turnout.


AXELROD: Joe Biden is the front runner here and nationally. How much jeopardy do you think he is in here of under-performance?

YEPSEN: He's in a lot of jeopardy. He's a weak front runner. I mean you have some very credible politicians who are running against him. They wouldn't be doing this if they thought he was unbeatable.

AXELROD: You basically fought Hillary Clinton to draw here in Iowa in 2016. There are 24 candidates now. Lots of different flavors, lots of competition. You now have taken a place of kind of third or fourth in these polls. I don't know, that it's easy -

SANDERS: No, that's not accurate. That is not accurate.


SANDERS: Let's be clear.


SANDERS: In fact, David, you would like to see it just happened to bring it with me. AXELROD: Incredible that you would have this.

SANDERS: Just happened.


SANDERS: This is showing that since the last debate, we have advanced more in the polling than any other candidate. So there are bad polls, there are good polls but in general we're doing good.

AXELROD: So you're saying this is - this is -

SANDERS: Since the last polls. Yes.

AXELROD: But I'm talking about here in Iowa, you talk about motivating young voters. Do you think that there is yet another group of voters here in the state of Iowa that hasn't participated before that is a key to you outperforming these polls and winning the caucuses.

SANDERS: Well again, I am not unhappy with the polling. We're going to win this election here in Iowa because we have an incredibly strong grassroots organization. To answer your question, nationally and in Iowa, what the polling shows is we do very well not just with very young people but with people on the 45-50.

Where we are not doing well, to be very frank with you, doing quite poorly is with older people. People over 65 and we have got to pay more attention to that voting block and make it clear that when I talk about Medicare for all, for example, we are talking about expanding coverage under Medicare to include dental, to including hearing aids and eye glasses which many older people today can't afford.

And that's something we're going to focus on.

AXELROD: You've decided to give your coveted endorsement to Kamala Harris. Why?

DVORSKY: I think that she's the one. I think that she is the one to bring together the pieces of the coalition of our base that have to come together as a starting point. I think then that she is the one to prosecute the case in the general election. I look at where on the national stage we have got to energize our base. And to me it's her.

AXELROD: The rest of the country is really not nearly as focused. But you feel like it's a late in the process here.

DVORSKY: I think the race is beginning to break into tiers. I think you've got a handful of likely front runners. I think you've got a handful of unlikely but not impossible at the bottom and I think you've got this big group in the middle.

TEWES: There's -there's an adage in the Iowa caucuses. Organize, organize and get hot late. So there's kind of the timing of it all that -

DVORSKY: Yes. TEWES: - you know, you don't want to peak too soon. You don't want to peak too late and you know with Obama, I always felt like it was a marathon at sprinter's pace.

AXELROD: One of the things that people said when you got in the race was Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. She's from the neighboring state. She is more moderate. So far you haven't gotten great traction, you're hovering down there and in like 3 percent and -

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, but I'm number 6. I'm ahead of 18 people including all the governors and mayors of New York city so not too bad.

AXELROD: Which could get you the Iowa home game but it doesn't necessarily get you the nomination. Now people don't chant we're number 6.

KLOBUCHAR: No one could predict including in Barack Obama's race who was going to win in August. I think as we get closer to the fall, it's going to give people more time to see some of the candidates that they didn't know as well. Some of the candidates that come from states that aren't as big and that's where we're headed.

I would rather not peak early, I'd rather peak closer to the caucuses.

AXELROD: Even in the most current polling, you are living down there in asterisk land, among 24 candidates. You can't - you can't win the nomination if you don't win here, can you?

BULLOCK: Well, I think I need to be among the top in Iowa.

AXELROD: The top what?

Top three or four. You remember being here with Barack Obama. Maybe he was, I don't know, 10-15 percent and it was this state that actually where he really gelled.

AXELROD: So it's - really it boils down to Iowa or a bust.

BULLOCK: I think for most of these candidates for all of the field, if you're not in the top few in Iowa it's bust.