MALCOM, Iowa – Poweshiek County has fewer than 19,000 residents, but the glare of the national political spotlight was focused on this tiny spot between Des Moines and Iowa City, as the campaign paths of Sen. Bernie Sanders and former congressman Beto O’Rourke came within a few windmill-covered miles of each other.
Both men spent the weekend campaigning heavily in Iowa and tweaking messages to address some criticisms they've received on the campaign trail as they fight for groups of energized and increasingly young voters, who will help them win the Democratic presidential nomination
For Sanders (I-Vt.), Who has been criticized for having little interaction with voters, that meant answering dozens of questions from people in Malcom about whatever they wanted to discuss: student aid for undocumented immigrants, a universal basic income or criminal justice legislation.
At one point during his town hall, and at Sanders they were running short on time and "this will have to be the last question." "No," Sanders svarte. "We have time to take one or two more ." Then took a question about his plan to raise the minimum wage.
For O'Rourke, who has been accused of being heavy on rhetoric and skimpy on policy specifics, it meant talking to voters in all detail and length he could muster.
"Let me try again," he said at Grinnell College after being asked a second time for more specifics of his platforms to address climate change and police violence. police violence against those who serve and protect I talked about transparency, accountability, and federal funds to full reporting on use of force and against whom forced is used, ”he said. "I talked about invoking the civil rights laws of the United States to transcend local and state jurisdictions to make sure the full weight and power and accountability of the federal government comes into play. community. ”
This weekend in Iowa, he has many who gushed over him, saying he reminded them of John F. Kennedy. But he also got skeptics who told him they wanted the details behind his lofty rhetoric.
I want to see legislative ideas, ”said Maya Dru, a 21-year-old sociology major at Grinnell College who asked O'Rourke how voters can trust his addressing climate change, given that he voted to explore expanding oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. (O'Rourke duty here he regretted the vote).
“I think saying 'I regret my vote' is one thing, but they need to somehow make it clear to voters that you will hold the individuals and corporations that (contribute to) climate change responsible, "she told The Washington Post.
Dru said she was miffed when O'Rourke said he didn't have a complete answer to her question and would follow up. "What is he going to do, text me?"
She was not the only voter with that reaction.
"He's talking about us," said Henry Brannan, a 21-year-old sociology and American studies major at Grinnell who is leaning toward Sanders, referring to a common line in O'Rourke's speech about rural broadband. “His rhetoric in general is clearly aimed at us, but there is clearly no substance behind it. His website, which I have been looking at in recent days, has vision statements. There 's nothing concrete about any of this. ”
Rourke announced last week that he had raised $ 9.4 million in 18 days, a clip of more than half a million dollars a day. Sanders leads the Democratic field in fundraising, having raised $ 18 million in 41 days.
A chunk of that money is going to win over young voters, who have fueled both men's campaigns in the past. Nearly a third of O’Rourke's stops during his 16-event flash of the state in recent days were at lectures, including some that Sanders had stopped at previously. Sanders held an event at William Penn University, and his final one was a short drive from Grinnell College that several students attended.
Both candidates appeared in Iowa before, so the stylistic differences this time were noticeable. Sanders 'rallies have followed a format similar to his 2016 campaign: an hour-long speech that features Sanders delivering policy prescriptions and applause lines.
But Sanders' supporters have a duty to style retailers in states such as Iowa or with black voters in South Carolina who want to be listened to instead of talked at. The lacquer of interaction was especially good when compared with selfie-snapping candidates such as O’Rourke Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) And Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.)
Warm up the crowd before Sanders spoke in Muscatine, form Ohio state senator Nina Turner, a co-chair of Sanders' campaign, told the crowd: "This is a town hall to go deeper than we usually get to go. ”
A few minutes later, Sanders took questions from a dozen people, including Shannon Abel, who lives a block away and asked about soaring Medicare costs. to be kissing babies and taking selfies, but I think it's important to have communication with people, ”said Abel said after the town hall. “I just wanted to hear him tell my story. I wanted to be heard. ”
O’Rourke faced the opposite problem. In many of his stops, he spent more time answering questions than delivering his stump speech – then the events taking selfies with attendees. [ButhisopponentsandtheirsupportershavereachedthatrhetoricoutweighshisaccomplishmentsandthathebenefitsfromcharmandpersonalitywhilelackingclearpolicyideasHiscelebrityconnections-hewasinterviewedbyOprahWinfreythisyearandrecentlyappearedonthecoverofVanityFair-havenotnecessarilyhelped
O'Rourke has time to impress with additional detail, but Sanders has few options when it comes to this weekend: his age. Sanders is 77, and O'Rourke 46. Several voters, both young and old, who attended O'Rourke events mentioned the age of Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden, who is 76, suggesting about whether they were too old to lead the country.
O'Rourke's early days as a presidential contender, in which he was bursting across Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and elsewhere with dozens of events, seemed to show off his vigor. In his stump speech, the former Texas congressman often talks to his younger voters, pointing to his release in 2018. The Senate race in Texas was up dramatically.
At a town hall last week at Iowa State University, a young voter asked O'Rourke whether he thought his youth was a disability or. . . more of an advantage. ”
“ Definitely an advantage, ”O'Rourke replied, though he didn't elaborate.
Sanders, who is the oldest candidate in the race, joked about his age onstage, reminding people that "I'm the junior senator from Vermont. The other guy's older. ”
Joanne Alvorez, 27, who is studying for a master's degree in social work at the University of Iowa, said she likes the college affordability plans. But she's turned off by his age. "" I am about old white but leading this country, "she said. ". . . Recently I just think all the old white but that have been doing it haven't been doing a good job. ”