NORTH LIBERTY — On what was expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year, about 500 people filled a junior high school gym in hopes of finding the perfect presidential candidate.
Amy and Matt Stier of Iowa City have their Christmas shopping done. However, with 44 “shopping days” until caucus night, they’re still narrowing down their choices.
“Warren’s at the top of the list,” said Matt, as he waited for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s town hall meeting at North Central Junior High School in North Liberty to begin.
Finding the right Christmas gifts had been easier than picking a candidate, Stier added.
“We have a great candidate pool, and that makes it harder,” he said. “There are lots of people to get to know. Your family and friends, you know them.”
Choosing a presidential nominee is more difficult, Amy said, “Because the stakes are so high.”
“You can always get another gift, but the evidence of a bad choice for president is pretty obvious every day,” she said.
It didn’t start with President Donald Trump, Warren said.
“This is not a Trump-only problem,” she said. “It’s just that with Donald Trump it’s gotten so large, visible and so many people are off the sidelines now. 2020 is our chance to change this.”
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She returned to that theme throughout more than hour of questions and answers. Regardless of the issue — health care, housing, climate change, saving democracy, Warren asked the crowd to join her in a “moment in history.”
Warren, who rose to the top of the field in Iowa during the summer, has seen her poll numbers dip from a high of 28 percent in mid-October to 16 percent more recently.
Saturday afternoon, Warren had another event in Cedar Rapids with longtime Iowa Democratic activist John Norris. He endorsed her candidacy earlier in the week.
In North Liberty, City Councilwoman RaQuishia Harrington reminded the audience that Warren already had demonstrated her interest and concern in local issues through a September visit to Golf View Mobile Home Park. Rents there went up as much as 70 percent under new owners.
“I hope that you all who are undecided, who have not made a decision as of yet, will look around and make her your top candidate,” Harrington said in introducing Warren.
Victoria Steelman of Coralville is undecided. The difficulty of finding the right Christmas gift and the right candidate are “about the same,” she said.
She’s narrowed her shopping list to two of the more than 20 candidates who started the 2020 race — Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden. Her top concern is ensuring access for everyone to affordable, high-quality health care.
“But there’s more than one way to do that,” Steelman said. So what she hears from the candidates over the next six weeks will determine her preference at Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses Feb. 3.
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Saturday, she was hoping for “more meat, not generalities” about Warren’s “Medicare for All” plan.
Warren said 36 million Americans last year didn’t fill a prescription for medication because of the cost. Many had health insurance, she said, but because of copays and deductibles couldn’t afford medications.
Warren promised to use her executive powers as president to change that, to lower drug costs to get “the most help to greatest number of people as quickly as possible.”
It’s an example of the “big solutions to match the big problems” she proposes.
“My campaign is based on a lifetime of fighting for working people,” Warren said. “I am running a campaign from the heart because I believe 2020 is our moment in history to pass a Green New Deal and save our planet ... to pass Medicare for All and save our people ... to pass a 2-cent wealth tax.
“If you believe 2020 is our moment in history, I’m going to ask you to commit to caucus for me,” she said. “Get in the fight.”
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