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Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Make Final Push In Tight Iowa Race


Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are getting ready for their big night in Iowa. The race has proven to be much closer than many people expected just a few months ago, and both candidates are seeing a lot of enthusiasm right now. Both Clinton and Sanders met with campaign volunteers in their Des Moines field offices today to spur them into a final sprint and to say thank you.


HILLARY CLINTON: I appreciate all of your hard work. We knocked on 186,000 doors.


BERNIE SANDERS: As of yesterday, more than 70,000 people have come out to our town meetings.


CORNISH: So it's a numbers game right now. To talk about the final push by the Democratic contenders, we're joined by NPR's Sam Sanders. He's been with the Bernie Sanders campaign and joins us from the Holiday Inn in Des Moines Airport where Sanders will hold this caucus-night party. Hey there, Sam.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Hey. How are you?

CORNISH: And NPR's Tamara Keith is also with us. She's been following the Clinton campaign and joins us from the campus of Drake University where Clinton will hold her caucus event. Welcome, Tam.


CORNISH: So that clip we heard from the Clinton campaign field office - you were there for that to, right? What else did you hear?

KEITH: Yeah. So I - really, Clinton - I mean, candidates can put on a good face, and Clinton definitely, though, seemed into it, excited, enthusiastic, hopeful. Of course, she felt that way in 2008 as well, as did her campaign. Her campaign staff say that this time around, they have hit all of their marks. They feel like they understand the delegate game in Iowa better than they did last time when she finished third, and they just generally feel like they are better prepared this time around.

CORNISH: And Sam, you spent the weekend with the Bernie Sanders campaign. What was his message to supporters?

S. SANDERS: You know - so he's been a rock star these last few days - huge crowds for his events, famous bands and actors opening up for him. And he's been thanking supporters for how far he's come these last few months to now be neck-and-neck with Clinton. And Sanders is really trying to rebuild the Obama coalition from '08. He wants young voters. But Obama was running a post-partisan campaign then, and Sanders is a flat-out liberal. He calls himself a socialist. But he's been talking turnout, turnout, turnout. Sanders says high turnout, he wins - a lower turnout, he loses. And he wants a bunch of that to come from young voters and college students and first- time caucus goers. The question is if they'll show up or not.

CORNISH: You know, Sam, if anyone's been listening to the senator for the last few months or even few years, he has been saying the same things, but I gather that he changed it up this weekend. What did you hear?

S. SANDERS: He did. You know, his speeches are always lofty. He often says that he wants to start a revolution. But last night, he honestly went a little bit bigger in his speech. Sanders placed his campaign right next to social justice throughout history - the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the women's rights movement. It seemed that Sanders was saying his campaign is more than just a campaign. It is a moral cause like those things are, right?

And so - but this morning, he also said that he is OK if he loses to Clinton. He says that this won't be the end of the road and that if he gets a few less delegates than Clinton, he still gets some delegates, and he's prepared to go to New Hampshire and further on and keep running.

CORNISH: And Tamara Keith, let's talk more about Hillary Clinton. How has she fine-tuned her closing message?

KEITH: You know, the interesting thing - and I think it's a real contrast with what Sam was saying about Senator Sanders - Hillary Clinton - I've been following her around for, oh, way too long - six months, eight months, ten months - something like that. In the last 10 days or so, her stump speech has just really not changed at all. She has locked in on her message, her message being a long version of, I'm a progressive who can get things done. And she's locked in on that. She hasn't changed her speech much. You know, in 2008, when she - when it looked like she was losing - and, in fact, she was - her message changed a lot as she sort of adapted to try to figure out what would reach voters. This time, she's locked in on it. And the idea is really that she's pragmatic, and that she - her ideas are ideas that can actually happen.

CORNISH: And Sam touched on this as well, but from the Clinton camp, expectations - how are they talking?

KEITH: They think that she will win in Iowa, and they are not quite as hopeful about New Hampshire, which is the next state where Sanders is currently polling something like 20 points ahead. But they really feel - Sam talked about that Obama coalition. Clinton's people feel like they have a bigger share of the Obama coalition - women, African-Americans, Latinos. And the calendar of states coming up they think favor Clinton.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith and Sam Sanders, both in Iowa this evening. They host the NPR Politics Podcast. Thanks to you both.

KEITH: You're welcome.

S. SANDERS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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