Pete D’Alessandro, a senior Iowa adviser to Mr. Sanders, said the campaign had already built a list of 24,000 Iowans, mostly through the Sanders email list, who said they planned to support him in 2020. Such a sizable ledger of supporters this early in the race is a big advantage in a state where voters are notoriously fickle, often demanding to meet multiple candidates before committing.
“We have every intention of winning here,” Mr. D’Alessandro said. “We’re working to win here.”
Numerous lower-tier contenders need Iowa to breathe life into their candidacies, even if they finish shy of an outright victory. The gap between expectations and outcomes has often been as important in Iowa as the results themselves.
Eric Swalwell, a California congressman and Iowa native, has already visited the state 19 times since 2017, according to a candidate calendar kept by The Des Moines Register. Julián Castro, the former federal housing secretary, installed a former Iowa Democratic Party chairman as his national deputy campaign manager.
Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who is expected to join the 2020 primary soon, has signaled a heavy focus on Iowa. At an off-the-record gathering of supporters and donors in Bozeman, Mont., this year, one of his guests was the Iowa attorney general, Tom Miller, who told people he planned to endorse Mr. Bullock and be his Iowa political guide. (Mr. Miller declined to comment last week. “I’m not saying anything this week,” he said.)
As a neighboring senator, Ms. Klobuchar is already known in some parts of northern Iowa that overlap with Minnesota media markets. (“I can see Iowa from my porch,” she likes to joke.) Her campaign headquarters in Minneapolis is only a two-hour drive to the Iowa border, making it possible to bus down volunteers as the caucuses near.
The rules of the Iowa caucuses have historically been inhospitable to all but the top finishers. Candidates who fail to get at least 15 percent in a caucus precinct cannot receive any delegates there, and their supporters then have a chance to migrate to viable competitors.