SIBLEY, Iowa — Hours before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses descended into chaos and uncertainty, Osceola County Democrats were ready Monday night to tout their preferred presidential candidates.
Roughly 100 people gathered inside the Sibley Senior Center for the countywide caucus event, with supporters of five major White House hopefuls each hoping for the best in a wide-open statewide race.
That race still hadn’t been called well into Tuesday, as a mobile app designed to assist reporting from about 1,700 caucus sites across Iowa was being blamed for delays in tabulating results. The problems could jeopardize Iowa’s unique status as the first contest among the country’s presidential primaries.
Just prior to the start of the caucuses in Sibley, though, enthusiasm was in the air as Democrats filed in to convene. And, as had been the case across the Hawkeye State, no one presidential candidate appeared to dominate in terms of preference.
“I think we need someone who’s middle of the road and someone who’s got some fresh ideas,” said Joel Larsen of Ocheyedan, who planned to support South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “My opinion is that Biden (Joe, former U.S. Senator from Delaware and vice president) has had his day. I’m not sure what I think about Bernie (U.S. Senator Sanders, of Vermont), and I don’t know if Amy (U.S. Senator Klobuchar, of Minnesota) is going to make it through this.”
Larsen added that he wasn’t worried about Buttigieg’s lack of political executive experience.
“He was also in military intelligence, and he was with a Wall Street group for quite a while so he knows the economy,” he said. “I think we need somebody fresh.”
Mike Earll of Sibley, who has long been involved in Democratic party politics, reminisced back to the days when Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey ran for president. He said it was believed that one reason why Humphrey’s Oval Office quest was unsuccessful was because he was “too nice.”
Compare that, Earll urged caucus-goers, with current U.S. President Donald Trump.
“We need a nice president,” Earll said, stressing the need to oust the Republican incumbent. “It's going to take a candidate that really appeals to all Americans … that’s Joe Biden.”
Citing health care and education as the issues most important to her, Emily Anderson of Harris said she was behind the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
“I believe in a lot of her policies, and have taken a lot of those online quizzes and always get Elizabeth Warren,” Anderson said.
“I’m 25, so I’m right in the midst of having a chunk of student debt,” she continued. “The price of education is getting higher and higher and higher … and I believe Elizabeth Warren has been in the education system long enough to know what’s at stake. She wants to get rid of student debt and help people actually afford college.”
Rachel Jones of Sibley, currently a graduate student, also pointed toward mounting education costs as a reason for her support of Sanders. Another caucus attendee behind Sanders was Tyler Breuker of Harris.
“After what’s happened the past four years because of the oompa loompa in office ... I actually want someone to try to fix it — not just fix it, but try and make it better,” Breuker said. “Bernie Sanders has the ideas to do that.”
Breuker indicated his support for Sanders’ ideas of “forcing corporations to pay their fair share” and the so-called Green New Deal, among others, and said the Vermont senator was not “just another politician” and a champion for the middle class.
“He has been fighting in the Senate for people just like us,” Breuker said.
Among the people lending support to Klobuchar Monday night was former Republican state senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan, who served in the Iowa Senate for 16 years. Johnson left the GOP in 2016 as a result of his opposition to then-presidential candidate Trump.
Johnson noted that he supported Klobuchar’s run for the White House before she’d even announced her candidacy.
“She’s from the Midwest, folks,” Johnson said. “She knows agriculture, and she knows how we live here.”
“I go with her (Klobuchar) because when she gets elected, she has a 100-day plan to pass a lot of legislation in the Oval Office,” added Phyllis Jenkins of Sibley.
In a Facebook post early Tuesday, the Osceola County Iowa Democratic Party thanked Monday night’s participants while also offering them some reassurance.
“The results are forthcoming, slow and accurate is the best,” stated the post, in part. “Know that ours were all accurately reported within an hour of us leaving the site.”