Why The Most Coveted Democratic Endorser In Iowa Isn't Picking Sides State Auditor Rob Sand is often mentioned as a potential candidate for higher office but despite being courted by Democratic presidential campaigns, Sand says endorsements "barely" matter "at all."
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Why The Most Coveted Democratic Endorser In Iowa Isn't Picking Sides

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Why The Most Coveted Democratic Endorser In Iowa Isn't Picking Sides

Why The Most Coveted Democratic Endorser In Iowa Isn't Picking Sides

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We're in the final stretch to the Iowa caucuses, and the Democratic presidential campaigns are frantically organizing. They're rolling out endorsements daily. But one of the most sought-after Democrats in the state is not interested in picking a favorite. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters explains why.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Decked out head to toe in camouflage, Iowa's 37-year-old state auditor, Rob Sand, is driving his truck to his deer stand, his bow and arrows in the back. His deer stand is not in the middle of nowhere. It's in a wooded area in the heart of the state's largest city, where he lives.

ROB SAND: They want to incentivize the shooting of does because the population in Des Moines is high enough that they're trying to thin it out.

MASTERS: Sand won his statewide office in 2018, defeating a Republican incumbent. Prior to winning, he was an assistant attorney general and led a nationwide lottery-fixing investigation. Now Democratic presidential candidates, from Senators Elizabeth Warren to Cory Booker, are all actively courting him. But ask Sand if endorsements matter.

SAND: Oh, man - barely, if at all.

MASTERS: Sand says for him personally, with two young kids and just starting the auditor job, he's not interested in being tied to a campaign.

SAND: If I could snap my fingers and know that the person that I determined was the best candidate was going to somehow magically win the Iowa caucuses and become the nominee, I would take this much more seriously. But part of the reason that the Iowa caucuses are good to have go first is because Iowans take this seriously.

MASTERS: He hasn't offered any presidential candidate a trip to his deer stand. Once he's climbed about 15 feet into the tree, he tells me it's time to wait.

SAND: If you see me pick my bow up, that means get ready.

MASTERS: While Sand stands in the trees, he sends some emails from his phone. He checks his social media, which he's pretty active on, from livestreaming his quest for a haircut while traveling in rural Iowa to tweeting about his favorite food - gas station breakfast pizza. Yeah, it's a thing. And he tweets about it a lot.

SAND: You get a nice piece of breakfast pizza with some firm crust underneath it. That's a really good version of breakfast on the go.

MASTERS: Sand pointed out presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has not tried breakfast pizza, which is sold at the gas station chain Casey's across the state. When I interviewed the former South Bend, Ind., mayor last month, I asked about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MASTERS: You haven't had breakfast pizza from Casey's yet. Is that true?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Is that what it's going to take to get the Rob Sand endorsement?

MASTERS: But in a field this big, any edge a campaign can get will matter, says Lily Adams. She was the communications director for California Senator Kamala Harris' now-defunct presidential campaign. She was also Hillary Clinton's communications director during the Iowa caucuses four years ago. Adams says campaigns want a good mix of endorsers who are not just going to be a name on a press release...

LILY ADAMS: But who are going to put their organizational heft and reputations on the line to get out people on caucus night, you know, when you are going to need everybody in that room to be advocating for you.

MASTERS: Take Christopher Marks, for example. The mental health counselor showed up to see Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar at a barn in suburban Des Moines earlier this month. A state lawmaker who endorsed Klobuchar introduced her that night. When I asked Marks if that backing helped persuade him at all, he said celebrity endorsements don't matter, but...

CHRISTOPHER MARKS: I think it carries more weight to me than Kevin Costner coming out for Pete. I mean, that's just where I live. This is where I'm from. These are the people that represent me. And if they say they represent her, that means something to me.

MASTERS: Back in Rob Sand's deer stand, the sun is going down, and it's prime time for deer to appear. He leans over to me.

SAND: I endorse this location for deer to visit within the next 40 minutes.

MASTERS: But no deer ever show up, and Sand points out it's proof his endorsement doesn't really matter.

For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines.

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