This past week brought several state-specific Democratic presidential primary polls with some notable up and down ticks.

But Iowa experts say the real time for surging has yet to begin.

Emerson College recently released its first poll of Iowa voters since October. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg continued his climb, being the top candidate for 18% of those polled.


U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, had a bad month, dipping from 23% and second place in October to 12% and fourth place this past week. Former Vice President Joe Biden kept his lead and 23% from October.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, rose from 13% in October to 22% this poll. And U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, rushed up from 11th place with 1% in October to 10% and the top five this past week.

All this jockeying for position is intensifying with less than two months left before the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses. But Chris Larimer, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa, said Friday that in recent history, key surges have tended to happen closer to the big day.

“The later the better,” he said. “I look back to the 2012 race for the Republican Party where you had Rick Perry in the lead in September, Herman Cain in October, then Newt Gingrich in November, with Mitt Romney always hovering around the front. Then all the sudden you had Rick Santorum right at the end who took the lead. It was in the last two days that polls started showing him surging.”

Larimer said similar surges blew John Kerry and John Edwards past Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic caucus.

“It’s not too late for any one of those who have been in the top four or five,” he said.

Larimer said there are lots of factors at play behind these surges — some calculated, some just because it’s Iowa.

“Caucus-goers in Iowa, Democratic caucus-goers specifically, are late to make up their mind,” he said. “Maybe initially it’s name recognition (of the candidate). Then it takes the candidates time to get out and into all the communities. It takes time for voters to get out and meet all of these candidates. It takes a while for that process to unfold.”

Polls have already shown surges for several candidates. Warren had a big autumn. Sanders is up near Biden in most polls right now. Buttigieg has been steadily ascending.

Marquette University released a Wisconsin-specific poll this week as well. There, Biden had 23%; Sanders was in second with 19%; Warren was in third with 16%; and Buttigieg had 15%.

Finkenauer urges Medicaid reform in Iowa

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, sent a letter to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this past week urging her to abandon the state’s privatized Medicaid management in response to Hillcrest Family Services’ announcement that the organization will close the Sub-Acute Mental Health Services Program in Dubuque.

The letter lays much of Hillcrest’s decision at the feet of the privatized system and asks Reynolds to move to a Medicaid system that “puts Iowans first.”

“Medicaid managed care is causing heartbreaking situations in our district and state, and it’s simply a failed policy,” Finkenauer said in a release. “Every day this failed and devastating policy isn’t fixed, more and more vulnerable Iowans and families will pay the price.”

Marklein signs letter urging lease changes

Wisconsin Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, joined fellow Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee in a request for the state Department of Administration to renegotiate the terms of the recently approved long-term lease of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

A letter written to administration Secretary Joel Brennan claims that a review of the lease terms showed that the Wisconsin Veterans Trust Fund could save nearly $1 million over five years if the terms were negotiated to align with current advertised rates for other space in the same building.

“We understand that the lease has been renewed with similar terms since 1989,” Marklein wrote in a letter.

“However, we also understand that there has been little — to no — negotiation on the terms of the lease for the Veterans Museum. By our calculations, we believe that the museum is paying nearly

$1 million more than necessary over the next five-year period. These are dollars that could be dedicated to serving the needs of veterans throughout Wisconsin.”

U.S. senators push rural broadband

U.S. senators from Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois joined a bipartisan letter to the Federal Communications Commission insisting the body prioritize sustainable rural broadband networks.

The FCC is considering new rules for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund — $20 billion meant to set up networks in rural areas over the next decade.

“If our rural communities are to survive and flourish, our rural constituents need access to services that are on par with those in urban areas,” the letter reads. “By contrast, it would be an inefficient use of resources to promote services that cannot keep pace with consumer demand and the evolution of broadband in urban areas.”

U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Republicans from Iowa; Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, both Illinois Democrats; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., signed the letter.


  • 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, Grand River Center, 500 Bell St. — AARP Iowa will hold a caucus education event with both Democratic and Republican representatives.
  • 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, UAW Local 94, 3450 Central Ave. — Our Revolution will hold a town hall to urge workers’ support of progressive candidates, including Sanders.