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Friday September 18th, 2020 1:12PM

The Latest: Bennet skips Iowa caucuses to campaign in NH

By The Associated Press
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Latest on the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet is spending the Iowa caucuses with New Hampshire voters — including one AARP volunteer he joked has been to more than 40 of his events.

The Colorado senator skipped out on Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses Monday to hold his 47th town hall in New Hampshire. He says he’s hoping to finish in the top 3 in the state’s Feb. 11 primary. That’s a long shot based on polling that shows he isn’t breaking through despite spending more time in the state than his rivals.

He says he prides himself on never being late to an event - until Monday. Plane delays from Washington, where he was participating in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, left his town hall attendees watching 15 minutes' worth of Bennet video clips before he arrived.

Bennet says he’s hoping to appeal to undecided New Hampshire voters who don’t believe the leading candidates can beat Trump.

He’s not shy about taking on his more progressive, and more popular, rivals. He’s contrasting his views with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in particularly by outlining his opposition to “Medicare for All” and saying Sanders’ spending proposals are unrealistic.

___

8 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is visiting a caucus site in Des Moines as voting gets underway in the nation's leadoff voting state.

The Massachusetts senator addressed hundreds of caucusgoers Monday night at a high school gymnasium. She sought to promote a message of unity, saying, “I’m someone who treats all of our Democrats with respect.”

She says the party should nominate a candidate whose campaign organization is as strong nationally as hers is in leadoff Iowa. She added: “I’ve got a great national organization.”

Many of her supporters wore green, the signature color of the Massachusetts senator’s campaign. They chanted, “Warren! Warren!” People caucusing for other candidates also applauded, but a large group of supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders responded, “Bernie beats Trump!”

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7:50 p.m.

Iowa Democratic Party officials say an early issue with a mobile app designed to report results will not hinder the Iowa caucus process.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said Monday that there were some reports from precinct officials that they couldn’t log into the app during the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

He said a team of troubleshooters is working to address any technical issues.

He added that the party has alternate ways for precincts to send in results, including a hotline.

“We’ve had an app before, but we’ve also had a hotline before, and folks have had the option to do that, and so we expect that we’ll be able to report the results in a timely manner this evening,” he said.

The app was designed to allow for the quick filing of results, and the issue appears to be the result of different PINs used for early testing and caucus night logins.

___

7:35 p.m.

Organizers at a large precinct in downtown Iowa City say the caucus may be delayed by an hour or longer as hundreds of people wait to register to vote or check in.

By 7:25 p.m. Monday, the 500 seats on the first floor of the Englert Theatre was mostly full and organizers opened up the balcony for more than 200 extra seats. Supporters of several campaigns sat in rows.

Many others who were in line by 7 p.m. were still outside waiting to check in, the lines snaking a block in both directions. The precinct is dominated by the University of Iowa campus and campaigns are vying for nine delegates here.

Iowa kicks off voting in the nation for the presidential race. It is the first contest to measure support for the Democratic candidates.

Voters are gathered at more than 1,700 sites throughout Iowa to declare support for their preferred candidate. They then will participate in “alignment,” which allows supporters of eliminated candidates to choose again.

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7:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is the winner of the 2020 Iowa Republican caucuses, a largely symbolic vote as he was facing no significant opposition.

Still, Trump’s campaign was using Monday's contest to test its organizational strength, deploying Cabinet secretaries, top Republican officials and Trump family members to the state.

It's unusual for Iowa to even be holding a GOP contest with an incumbent in the White House. The Iowa Republican caucuses were canceled in 1992 and 2004. But GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufman said state officials were determined to keep the caucuses in place this year to maintain the state’s status as the first in the nation to cast its ballots.

___

7 p.m.

The first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses have officially begun in Iowa.

At 7 p.m. Central time in Monday, voters gathered at more than 1,700 sites throughout Iowa began declaring support for their preferred candidate. They then will participate in “alignment,” which allows supporters of eliminated candidates to choose again.

For the first time this year, the Iowa Democratic Party will report three sets of results: tallies for the “first alignment” and “final alignment,” as well as each candidate's total of “state delegate equivalents.” Previously, only each candidate's ultimate number of state convention delegates has been reported.

The Associated Press will declare the winner based on the number of state delegate equivalents.

Polls suggest Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may have a narrow lead, but any of the top four candidates — Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — could score victory in the unpredictable caucus system.

____

6:15 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg says he has no regrets on skipping the Iowa caucuses.

The billionaire former New York City mayor was campaigning in California on Monday as his rivals for the Democratic nomination prepared for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

Bloomberg suggested that his rivals were falling behind in the race. He noted in Compton that he has made stops in 24 states and 60 cities while the other candidates have been hunkered down in Iowa.

He'd like to think he's a few steps ahead. “I hope so,” Bloombeg said.

Bloomberg’s trip amounted to a carefully planned sideshow to the crescendo of campaigning in Iowa, where the crowded and shifting Democratic field headed toward an uncertain finish in Monday’s caucuses.

It's unusual, but not unprecedented, for a candidate to turn away from Iowa, the time-honored launching pad for presidential candidates. Bloomberg's strategy is to skip the four early voting states and focus instead on the delegate-rich Super Tuesday states voting on March 3.

___

4:40 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign is working to mobilize young voters to caucus for him on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City.

More than 20 Sanders campaign volunteers and staffers gathered at the student union Monday afternoon to go over their plans to get out the vote. Among them: a “Bernie bus” to drive supporters to caucus sites and a pizza party in which students will be challenged to persuade 15 others to show up in their candidate's corner.

On campus, Sanders volunteers handed out flyers that highlighted his plans to cancel student debt, provide health care for all and take aggressive steps to combat climate change.

University of Iowa political science student Majid Al-Kaylani, 20, said that the stakes of the election were high for the country and that democratic institutions were under attack. He says he believes Sanders is the only candidate with a progressive agenda who can defeat President Donald Trump in November.

University of Iowa junior Clarissa Beyer, 20, says she has supported Sanders since his first presidential bid in 2016, when she was too young to vote. She says is excited to show her support for him this time, pointing to his plans for health care and free college tuition.

___

3:05 p.m.

Some of the earliest results of the Iowa caucuses are coming in from thousands of miles away.

In Glasgow, Scotland, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the most support in a small, satellite caucus for Iowans living abroad.

Sanders received support from nine of the 19 caucusgoers who attended. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ended up with six supporters, and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg had three.

The other candidates were not viable. Former Vice President Joe Biden received no votes. The results can hardly be considered meaningful -- some 200,000 people are expected to caucus Monday night.

This is the first time Iowa Democrats have held caucuses outside Iowa. The remote sites are intended to make the caucuses more inclusive to Iowans living out of state or abroad.

___

2:50 p.m.

This is a caucus like Iowans have never seen before. Voters came from Egypt, Italy, London and Amsterdam to gather in Paris and choose their Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election.

Some are serving at U.S military bases. Some are studying abroad. Some had never met another Iowan abroad until Monday night.

And they all love being able to caucus outside Iowa for the first time. Paris is one of just three satellite caucus locations outside the U.S. and drew the biggest number of expat Iowans.

As Monday's caucuses kicked off in a town hall north of the Louvre Museum, the 17 registered voters laughed and begged for one another's votes. They celebrated Midwestern values and European public health care systems -- and debated passionately about how best to best Republican President Donald Trump.

The Paris caucuses were organized by a 20-year-old student who was voting for the first time. Some participants got the wrong address and time, so they restarted the whole thing an hour later.

___

12:30 p.m.

More than 100 supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg have crowded into the backroom of his West Des Moines, Iowa, headquarters before heading out to knock on doors as the hours tick down to Iowa’s caucuses.

The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor popped in Monday to thank the precinct-level volunteers. Many of the volunteers are sporting the telltale blue and gold borrowed by the campaign from Buttigieg’s hometown University of Notre Dame.

Buttigieg says his campaign and volunteers are exactly where they need to be “to astonish the political world.”

Buttigieg was little known a year ago when he first appeared in Iowa as a presidential prospect. He's now among a pack at the top of the field in Iowa.

Anthony Elarth traveled from Seattle to help train Buttigieg volunteers in Iowa. He says volunteers engaging voters at their doors “want to have a conversation, not a debate.”

___

10:45 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is reacting to a Trump campaign Super Bowl ad about criminal justice reform as the Iowa caucuses are set to kick off.

Buttigieg says it's one of the handful of things the Republican president has done that he agrees with. But the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor said Monday it “doesn’t change the incredible cruel and divisive racial rhetoric that comes out of this White House.” Buttigieg tells Fox News Channel that's one of the many reasons he's been meeting Democratic and Republican voters who tell him "they struggle to look their children in the eye and explain to them how this is the president of the United States.”

By Monday's end, tens of thousands of Iowa Democrats will have decided the results of their presidential caucus in the contest to challenge Trump. Buttigieg is among the top four candidates, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The Trump ad features a first-time nonviolent drug offender named Alice Johnson, who was given clemency by Trump shortly after Kim Kardashian pleaded Johnson's case in a meeting with him. Johnson thanks Trump in the ad.

___

10:30 a.m.

Elizabeth Warren says that taking months of questions from people all over Iowa has made her a strong candidate as the state’s lead-off caucus begin the Democratic presidential primary.

The Massachusetts senator held a Monday morning telephone town hall with Iowans from Washington, where she will be in the Senate for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Warren has thanked the other Democratic presidential candidates who entered the race, many of whom have since dropped out. She says those White House hopefuls, and the questions from ordinary people at town halls, made her a better campaigner and will ensure she’s a better president.

Warren also says it is time for her party to unify and defeat Trump in November’s general election.

Polls show Warren among the front runners in Iowa along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

___

Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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