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Field Organizers For Clinton, Sanders Work To Build Momentum In Iowa


Now we're going to hear about the field operations for the two Democratic candidates in Iowa - what their staffs and volunteers are saying when they knock on doors. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters reports on their roles in trying to create momentum.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton came in third in the Iowa caucuses. Her campaign is eager to win Iowa this time. It has 26 field offices, plenty of staff and volunteers who have been organizing on her behalf for more than a year.

Scott Thompson is knocking doors in Des Moines. On this day, he stands on Dave Petheram's doorstep and asks him if he's supporting Clinton.

DAVE PETHERAM: I'm moving there.



THOMPSON: Well, do - well, it - do you have any questions? Is there anything that you need to - that I could help with?

PETHERAM: Well, as we all know, she's got some baggage, but I'm moving there, OK? I figure that may become the most sound administration.

MASTERS: This was Thompson's third stop at this house.

THOMPSON: I've spoken to his wife once and - through the door because of the dogs. And that's the first time I've met him.

MASTERS: All over Iowa, Clinton volunteers are trying to close the sale. While waiting to hear Clinton speak at a rally for the third time, Phyllis Rife says Clinton's pragmatism and experience is one pitch she uses with voters.

PHYLLIS RIFE: She's the most electable. That's my line - yeah (laughter).

MASTERS: Electable isn't the word Bernie Sanders' supporters use.

LISA CUNNINGHAM: I'm tired of dynasties, and I'm tired of Clintons and Bushes. And I just feel like it's time for a fresh face.

MASTERS: That's Lisa Cunningham, who stopped by an opening of a new Sanders field office in the small Central Iowa town of Newtown. One sign of the intense struggle between Sanders and Clinton - both campaigns have offices just down the street from each other in this town of 15,000.

The Sanders campaign hopes to recreate some of the grassroots enthusiasm that helped Barack Obama eight years ago in Iowa. On a frigid Sunday afternoon in Des Moines, a handful of young Sanders volunteers gather in a grocery store parking lot before hitting the streets with clipboards in hand.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We have full packs here. We're going to go into twos except for a group of three.

MASTERS: Polls show Sanders has an edge over Clinton with young voters. Evan Herlocker was too young to caucus in 2008. He introduced Sanders at a rally the night before. Today, he's canvassing in subzero temperatures in a low-income neighborhood he says the campaign just hasn't hit much. Herlocker says he wanted to volunteer for an underdog.

EVAN HERLOCKER: I thought, hey, he's not going to be as popular. I might get to do some cool things that, you know, I wouldn't get to do if I volunteered with, like, the Clinton campaign.

MASTERS: Herlocker says most of the time, he gets a good response from his pitch on Sanders. But with the days ticking down, he has a lot more doors to knock.


HERLOCKER: Hi there. I'm a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign.

MASTERS: For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines.

SHAPIRO: Let us know what you like about the show and what you don't. You can reach us on the web. Go to npr.org and click on contact at the bottom of the page.


You can write to us, and of course, you can tweet and Facebook us, too. The program is @NprATC. I'm @RSiegel47.

SHAPIRO: And you can find me on Twitter @AriShapiro or on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat - all the place the kids hang out these day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Clay Masters is a reporter for Iowa Public Radio and formerly for Harvest Public Media. His stories have appeared on NPR
Clay Masters
Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter. He was part of a team of member station political reporters who covered the 2016 presidential race for NPR. He also covers environmental issues.
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