Caucus voting underway; Iowa may clarify Democratic field

Caucusgoers check in at a caucus at Roosevelt High School, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Caucus voting began Monday night across Iowa as Democrats balanced their desire for fundamental change with their craving to defeat President Donald Trump in the opening contest of the 2020 presidential primary season.

Nearly a dozen White House contenders were still vying for the chance to take on Trump in November, although Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses were expected to provide some clarity for what has been a muddled nomination fight for much of the last year.

As the evening caucuses opened their doors, there were signs of major enthusiasm. Outside Iowa City’s Englert Theatre, long lines stretched a block in two directions and organizers predicted delays of an hour or longer.

By day’s end, tens of thousands of Democrats were to have gathered at community centers, high school gyms and more than 1,600 other caucus locations in the premiere of more than 50 contests that will unfold over the next five months.

The moment was thick with promise for a party that has seized major gains in states since Trump won the White House in 2016. But instead of clear optimism, a cloud of uncertainty and deepening intraparty resentment hung over Monday’s election as the prospect of an unclear result raised fears of a long and divisive primary fight in the months ahead.

Polls suggested that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might have a narrow lead, but any of the top four candidates — Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — could score a victory in Iowa’s unpredictable and quirky caucus system as organizers prepared for record turnout. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who represents neighboring Minnesota, was also claiming momentum .

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