ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Before New Hampshire, there is Iowa. The caucuses are five weeks from today, and the outcome could make a decisive impact on the rest of the campaign. NPR's David Welna has been talking with Iowa voters this week. And he found that despite the months of campaigning there, many say they are still undecided.
DAVID WELNA: Polls may show Iowans backing one candidate or another. But what I found on the ground there was virtually everyone I talked to claimed to be leaning one way or another, but not ready to make a commitment. Mark Haleb(ph) is the curator of a big new exhibit on Iowa's caucuses. I asked him - what in the world is with Iowa's undecided voters?
Mr. MARK HALEB (Curator, Iowa caucuses): They get it. They know how to do it. And they're not going to make up their mind.
WELNA: Are they just being cagey?
Mr. HALEB: I don't think it's being cagey. I think it's being that they take it that seriously.
WELNA: One of those dithering voters is Marlene Erhardt. She's a 73-year-old Republican from West Des Moines. And she plans to caucus for the very first time, January 3rd.
Ms. MARLENE ERHARDT (Des Moines resident): I'm waiting until everybody has their say on everything and then we'll go to the caucus and see what happens.
WELNA: Are you leaning toward anyone?
Ms. ERHARDT: Well, yes.
(Soundbite of laughter)
WELNA: May I ask who that is?
Ms. ERHARDT: No. I may change, you know? A woman could always change her mind.
WELNA: Last Sunday evening in Iowa Falls, a crowd filled the local fire station to hear Hillary Clinton. And as they waited for her to show up, Christy Vilsack, the state's former first lady, acknowledged Clinton would not necessarily be preaching to the converted.
Ms. CHRISTY VILSACK (Former state first lady, Iowa): I know that some of you haven't decided yet, and some of you won't decide until you walk in the door. Some of you may not ever decide, I don't know. It's - we've got so many great candidates this time around. Anyone of ours is better than all of theirs put together. So it is a difficult process.
WELNA: One of those undecided voters was local family physician Francis Pisney.
Dr. FRANCIS PISNEY (Local family physician): I'm kind of leaning towards Hillary, and I'm here to be persuaded.
WELNA: And after listening to the senator for nearly an hour, this was Pisney's less than decisive verdict.
Dr. PISNEY: I think she made a good case for her program - a lot of food for thought. I'm going to weigh that and try to make an important decision.
WELNA: You're still undecided?
Dr. PISNEY: Yeah.
WELNA: There were also those who said they have settled on a candidate, but still seemed open to changing their minds. Here's retired school teacher Gale Romiller(ph).
Ms. GALE ROMILLER (Retired school teacher): I'm a Joe Biden supporter.
WELNA: So why did you come here?
Ms. ROMILLER: Because my husband's a Hillary supporter, and he was working. He thinks if I came I would - I was impressed. I really was. I thought she had handled a lot of the issues very well. And I'm pleased to know what she's going to do with them. So…
WELNA: Meanwhile, at a Barack Obama rally in Des Moines, voter Annett Brown(ph) was also struggling with how to vote January 3rd.
Ms. ANNETT BROWN: I haven't made my mind up yet, because - I mean, all that my feel is good. They say work independently and for other people. But she's gotten my friend, yeah. You're going to see Hillary and Obama. I don't know what that means. What? That's what it is.
WELNA: Even caucus exhibit curator Haleb admits he has yet to make up his mind.
Mr. HALEB: And most people, I guarantee you, will not truly decide until that week or the day they're walking in there.
WELNA: David Welna, NPR News.
BLOCK: Do you have something you'd like to ask the Democratic contenders? If so, go to npr.org/debate and post your questions. We'll put some of them to the candidates on December 4th during the NPR-Iowa Public Radio debate from Des Moines.
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