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Iowa caucus success for Tom Steyer is to exceed expectations

Democratic presidential hopeful's campaign manager emphasizes 'fluidity of the race'

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer speaks during a campaign event Dec. 16 at MERGE in Iowa City. (Andy Abeyta/
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer speaks during a campaign event Dec. 16 at MERGE in Iowa City. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

California businessman Tom Steyer says he plans to spend at least $100 million on his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Iowans who watch television, listen to the radio or visit social media know much of that has been spent on advertising.

However, his campaign manager, Heather Hargreaves, believes the former San Francisco hedge fund manager’s success will be built on personal contact with Iowa caucusgoers.

“I think getting Tom in front of more people — specifically Iowans — is the way,” she said. “That is our goal and how we think that we will do well in this race.”

That’s because when people meet Steyer, 62, “they really understand his message and ... really understand who he is and where his values are and what kind of person he is,” she said.

In a race where the policy differences between the candidates can be minor, “who that person is and what their values are and the experience they’re going to bring to the office is something that voters are looking at,” Hargreaves said.

Q. Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential precinct caucuses are just over a month away. What are you doing to prepare?

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A: “We’re heavily invested in Iowa. Tom’s going to be back in a few days and will be back in Iowa a lot in January. We have seen that we’re continually moving up in polling and building our presence, and that’s what we can continue to do for the next six weeks.”

Q. Steyer’s poll numbers have been rising, but still are in single digits, and he hasn’t cracked that so-called top tier.

A: “I think that as we’ve seen through polling that this race is really wide open still, and a lot of dynamics are constantly changing. Just in the last month, two candidates got in the race and a major candidate left the race.”

Q. As you know, a candidate has to get the support of at least 15 percent of those at an Iowa caucus to get delegates. Will Steyer be awarded any delegates?

A: “Our goal is to get as many delegates as possible. The basics of caucus math mean that there won’t be delegates for everybody. We believe that we will be viable, and we’ll be in that mix come Feb. 3.

“I think I can understand why you would say that there’s currently a top tier, but I think to assume that’s going to be the case in February is probably naive given how fluid things are.”

Q. Steyer is an atypical candidate in that he’s never held elected office. Given that we have another wealthy businessman with no previous experience in office as president, does that make it harder to convince Iowans to listen to him?

A: “I actually think that voters are looking for an outsider. They’re looking for somebody that can change the dynamics that haven’t been working for decades in Washington.

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“I think that Donald Trump’s outsider presence was something that really resonated with voters. I think what’s happened with the Trump administration is that he has acted much more like a swamp rat than somebody who’s trying to drain the swamp. If he had actually approached it as a real outsider, then maybe things would have been different. But I think people, especially in Iowa, know that the current situation is not working for them. That means that we need massive change, and having somebody with an outside perspective is something that is appealing.”

Q. So how will you judge success in Iowa?

A: “I think success in Iowa in the long run is exceeding expectations. But what those expectations are on Feb. 3 is not something we have a good handle on at this moment given the fluidity of the race.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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