Live Update From Iowa: They’re All Running Against the Same Guy

No matter the political party, Trump is the candidate to beat.

Ted Cruz surrounded by supporters and press in Iowa on Jan. 31, 2016
Ted Cruz surrounded by supporters and press in Iowa on Jan. 31, 2016 Jason Johnson/The Root

Editor’s note: All day Monday The Root will be publishing short dispatches from our politics editor, Jason Johnson, in Iowa, where he is following the action ahead of tonight’s caucus. Follow this story for updates. You can also follow his caucus reporting on Twitter.

Des Moines, Iowa, Sun., Jan. 31:

Different Faces, Different Views, Same Opponent

That’s the tone in Iowa, where a dozen candidates were still running campaign operations throughout the state as of Sunday night. Everyone is making the big play, but in the capital city of Des Moines, it’s those running in second place who seem to be taking up the most space. Sunday night, big rallies by Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz bookended a rally with Hillary Clinton, and while the words and thoughts of every candidate couldn’t be more divergent, in many respects you feel as if they are all, Republican and Democrat, running against the same person: Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders Is the Mockingjay  

The Sanders campaign held an event at Grand Valley College in central Des Moines, and the building was packed to the rafters with college students and other members of the progressive left. You had to literally park three buildings over on a cold night and traverse melting snowbanks to get into the small gym filled with red-white-and-blue Sanders signs. The theme of political revolution and change was coming out of the mouths of everyone walking in and out of the building.

The amount of press there, especially foreign press, was extensive. Japanese, Korean and several European newscasters bustled around trying to get the perfect angle of the candidate, who took his sweet time coming onto the stage. Sanders, almost as if brandishing his millennial street cred, had a series of pop stars and garage-band types stump for him onstage. A journalist jokingly turned to me and said, “Sanders will definitely win the 20-and-under crowd with all these stars. I wouldn’t know any of these people if it weren’t for my 13-year-old daughter.”  

Almost as if on cue, Josh Hutcherson (known to most of the world as Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games films) hopped onstage with a beard and plaid workman’s shirt to say how Sanders was going to create change. (Just to make sure there was Hunger Games balance, apparently Effie supports Hillary. I guess Bernie is the Mockingjay and Hillary is Coriolanus Snow.) Also in attendance was Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Overall, the crowd was very enthusiastic, and when Sanders said, “You look like you want to start a political revolution,” the room cheered with abandon.

Sanders spent most of his speech speaking in detail about the bought-and-paid-for corporate media, how his campaign announced that it has zero money in its super PAC (compared with the millions Clinton has in hers) and the need for change in Washington, D.C., that can’t just start and end with him.