MANCHESTER — Even as their field of candidates shrinks through attrition, Iowa Democrats are having a difficult time picking a candidate to back in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, less than a month away.
Top-of-mind issues will influence their choice on caucus night, Feb. 3, according to Manchester Democrats at a town hall meeting Saturday with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at West Delaware High School.
“The economy,” said Kerry Recker of Manchester, who described herself as “pretty comfortable” with Warren, but still doing research because “I feel so in the middle of the party.”
Education topped retired special education teacher Bill Lester’s concerns.
“Getting rid of Trump,” added his wife, Sherry.
Richard Mejia’s biggest issue?
“I can’t figure out which one to vote for,” the Marine Corps veteran said. “I’ve seen most of the candidates, and everyone has something to sell that’s worth listening to, but I don’t know that I have confidence in any one of them.
“There’s not a straight connection, yet” Mejia said.
Warren touched on most of the issues caucusgoers mentioned. One she didn’t talk about was the recent killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani by the United States.
Recker has had a fear of a “full-blown war” even before Soleimani’s killing.
“It’s a scary world,” said the mother of three children, ages 22, 21 and 16. “But that escalated it.”
Sherry Lester “can understand why we don’t want him alive, but I don’t want to send people to war.” She’s concerned Trump’s order to kill Soleimani was a distraction from impeachment.
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Her husband agrees that the killing might have been warranted, “but with this president, I can’t trust him.”
Responding to reporters’ questions later, Warren warned that the “assassination” of Soleimani, has “increased the likelihood that we will end up in yet another war in the Middle East. That puts us all at risk.”
Warren did talk about preserving Social Security, raising taxes on the wealthy, enforcing antitrust laws to stop the growth of “Big Ag” and her health care plan, that she described as “full health care coverage for everyone” rather than “Medicare for All.”
Challenged on why she wouldn’t move immediately to Medicare for All, Warren said she wants to let Americans experiment with her approach before locking it in.
“We need to get the votes, and we need to give people some experience with it,” said Warren, who repeatedly has called for “big structural change.”
“Health care is deeply personal. People are very uneasy about big changes in health care,” she said. “Let’s open up the possibilities first. Let tens of millions of Americans try it ... and then let’s do the vote on whether or not we lock everybody in.”
That transition to a Medicare for All plan might be more appealing to folks in her audience who described themselves as more moderate than Warren.
Sherry Lester is looking at Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and disappointed that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock dropped out of the race.
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Bill Lester also is considering Klobuchar as well as former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden — “moderates who are hopefully somewhat progressive.”
Regardless of who Democrats nominate, Mejia doesn’t want a repeat of 2016 when party divisions might have contributed Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
“If our own party can’t come together, how are we ever going to get together with Republicans to get something done,” Mejia said.
Kirkwood Community College student Georgie Hilbey listened, but Warren didn’t change her mind.
“If I want to be involved in the political process than I need to hear from both parties,” the Manchester Republican said, “but I’m she’s still supporting President Donald Trump.”