INDIANOLA, Iowa — As the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump draws to a close, some voters planning to participate in the Iowa Democratic caucuses Monday say a candidate who can unite the nation has emerged as a priority for them.
"I think the most important thing to me in this election is finding a way to put our country back together,” said Michelle Boden at the food court of the Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines. “I sincerely worry for my children and for the future of this country. When we talk about people fighting amongst themselves and there being a huge divide in this country, we can no longer talk about what our differences are.”
Boden, 43, a lifelong Republican, said she’s switching her party affiliation to express her preference for a Democrat. Her friend Kari Borlaug agreed on the need for unity.
“I think we have such a division now going on that we need a healing process to happen. I’m hoping that with the next election, that healing process will come about,” said Borlaug, 47, who is also a reluctant Democrat this caucus cycle.
Boden and Borlaug are not alone in wanting someone to reset the country’s politics. A recent Reuters-Ipsos poll indicated slightly more than half those polled believe the country is “off on the wrong track,” rather than moving in the right direction. Both Boden and Borlaug told WGBH News they are considering Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the potential unifier.
In the final days before the Iowa caucuses, Warren is trying to position herself in that role, with last-minute ads that feature supporters from a range of political backgrounds. In one, a former Bernie Sanders supporter, a former Hillary Clinton supporter and a former Trump supporter look into the camera and declare their endorsement of the Massachusetts senator’s campaign.
“If a former Trump supporter can be energized by Elizabeth Warren, then Elizabeth Warren is doing something great for America,” a male voice declares.
Drake University professor and Iowa State Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, who's supporting Warren, said the late-stage advertising is aimed at subtly swaying undecided voters like Boden and Borlaug.
"It is saying that if people are concerned that the party will be divided coming out of the convention, she's trying to answer that question and say, 'These people are saying we can unite,'" Konfrst said. “This close to caucus, it’s effective in the sense that they’re trying to assuage those last-minute fears because if people are close, and you can find a Republican who says, 'I think she can win,' and a former Bernie supporter who says, 'I’m with her this time and I think she can unite the party,' those are some pretty powerful voices sending a message that answers some of the concerns people have.”
But even with the ad buy of an unspecified amount, there is no guarantee that campaign funds spent will reach wavering potential caucus-goers.
At one of Warren's last rallies in Indianola, Iowa on Sunday before she headed back to Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Senate is expected to acquit Trump on Wednesday, supporter Casey Spring said she could only vaguely recall a recent ad drawing contrasts between Warren and Trump.
“I’ve seen one or two,” said Spring, 20. “They just kind of remind me about her message.”
Spring said she plans to caucus for Warren Monday night. She said uniting the country is a priority and thinks the senator can do it with values-driven leadership.
"If you live values that are important to American people, by doing that, you unify the country," Spring said, pointing to Warren’s campaign message of rooting out corruption. “I think that that’s a really unifying message across the aisle on a lot of issues."
Boden agreed that values should transcend party politics.
"If you'd have talked to me five years ago, I would've definitely identified as a Republican in that I feel I have conservative Christian values,” she said. “But I think that we need to be careful and understand that belonging to one party or the other doesn't mean you do or you don't have those kind of personal values. This is about what our government is doing for us."
Boden said she hopes both Sanders and Warren would be “ready to fight for all Americans” and just policies. Who she thinks makes a better unity candidate, she said, she will decide Monday night when she participates in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses.