Many Iowans are saying they would like to see the Democratic field for president narrow.
Candidates are crisscrossing the state before higher debate qualification criteria could see them fail to qualify for the September and October debates and pushed out of the presidential race altogether as a result. Saturday saw three candidates visit Cafe Diem in Ames alone.
Johanshir Golchin, an Ames resident, said he is in the process of narrowing down the candidates he is choosing from. Golchin said he currently has his list down to five: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer.
Golchin said he believes there are “too many people” in the race.
“[Having so many candidates on stage in debates] dilutes the major issues to a few soundbites … each is only given a few minutes to explain their position,” Golchin said.
A poll in June found 47% of Iowa voters think several of the candidates should drop out, and a further 27% said most of the candidates should drop out.
Early Saturday, Steyer visited Cafe Diem in downtown Ames, Golchin left his event carrying several “Tom 2020" signs.
Doug Fuller, a farmer from Cambridge, Iowa, said he was “impressed with Steyer.”
On the number of candidates in the race, Fuller said “I like Warren, I like a lot of them. I have not settled on one yet.”
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., followed Steyer in courting voters at Cafe Diem.
Dorothy Dake, a retired elementary school teacher from Ames, said she heard about Bennet in the first debate, and was impressed with his performance in the second debate and his appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Dake said she “can’t imagine” the race will continue with this many candidates until caucus night.
Dake singled out former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., as candidates she would like to see leave the race. CNN reports Hickenlooper “hasn’t closed the door” on dropping out of the presidential race to run for Senate.
As Bennet left the cafe, he encouraged those who had turned out to hear him speak to go to his website and donate to his campaign to help him qualify for the next debates.
The higher bar to qualify for the next debates is expected to narrow the field. Candidates must receive at least 130,000 unique donations from at least 400 donors in at least 20 states and receive at least 2% support in at least four Democratic National Committee approved polls.
Gabbard held an event late Saturday in Cafe Diem, with a crowd easily surpassing the size of Steyer and Bennet’s earlier events in the same cafe.
Tami Albright said Gabbard is her “number one” pick for president, and added “there are way too many candidates” in the race.
“I’d like to see … gosh, the ones I don’t even know very well like Bennet, the guy from Montana — see, I don’t even know their names — I’d kind of like to see Joe Biden drop out, maybe Kamala Harris drop out, but otherwise I think there’s some strong candidates.”
Don Lester, a school teacher in Boone, said he told Gabbard her performance in the debate “pulled her up into my sights.” He said Warren, Sanders, Biden and Harris are other candidates in his “top five.”
Lester said he doesn’t think people are getting tired of the candidates coming around so often, adding he “relishes it.”
“If we don’t get some of these people to figure out this is not going to happen for them this time, then we’re going to saturate it and there are going to be people who support a certain candidate and when that candidate drops out — I’m worried that they will say: well my candidate’s not there anymore, so I won’t vote,” Lester said.
Speaking with reporters after the event, Steyer said confidently “we’ll make it” of qualifying for the September and October debates. He declined to reveal how many unique donations he has received, though he only needs to receive one more poll in order to pass that qualification hurdle.
In her own response to questions from the press, Gabbard answered “yes” when asked whether she will stay in the race should she not qualify for the debate scheduled for Sept. 12 and 13.