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What Democratic primary voters are talking about in early-voting states

"The Takeout": CBS News 2020 campaign embeds

While the House of Representatives is set to vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump in the coming days, CBS News' campaign reporters say they aren't seeing impeachment come up as a main topic of interest for Democratic voters in early-voting states.

"I've heard a grand total of two questions [about impeachment], and I've probably heard hundreds upon hundreds of questions from voters," CBS News' New Hampshire campaign reporter Nicole Sganga said on "The Takeout" this week.

Musadiq Bidar and LaCrai Mitchell, who have spent months covering the 2020 Democratic candidates for CBS News in Iowa and South Carolina, respectively, agreed with Sganga.

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"In the past three months, I can think of one town hall where impeachment has come up," Mitchell said. The reporters said that based on their conversations with voters across the three states, the biggest issues for voters in the early-voting states are access to healthcare, immigration and criminal justice reform, as well as the opioid epidemic.

Mitchell, Sganga, and Badir joined CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett on this week's episode of "The Takeout" to discuss what they have heard from voters thus far in the Democratic primary process.

With the Iowa caucuses less than two months away on February 3, 2020, Bidar said that many Iowans are just now beginning to decide which candidates to support.

"We are seeing a bit of a change in the top tier of candidates," Bidar said. "Senator Elizabeth Warren was at the top of the polls all summer long. She has seen a bit of a dip [in her polling numbers] and Mayor Pete Buttigieg is starting to take over."

Bidar added that Iowa is different because rather than casting ballots in a primary, registered voters go to local caucus meetings to discuss their candidates. He said that supporters stand with like-minded supporters and if the candidate is viable and has over 15 percent of the room's support, they can stay with their chosen candidate. But should a candidate not meet the 15-percent threshold, Bidar said, supporters must move to their second, and sometimes third choice.

"What becomes interesting then is all the candidates, all their supporters try to encourage others to come to their corner," Bidar said.

Sganga said over 40 percent of New Hampshire voters are undeclared and can vote in either the Democrat and Republican primaries next year.

"This cycle, the bottom line is that voters are still undecided," Sganga said. "Overall, this is a battle of sort of the top four candidates [Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg]." 

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L-R: CBS News' LaCrai Mitchell, Nicole Sganga, Musadiq Bidar, and Major Garrett CBS News / Arden Farhi

Sganga said that the addition of businessman Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has opened up the race even further.

In South Carolina, Mitchell said that voters still voice strong support for former Vice President Biden.

"He's had a commanding double-digit lead in the state since the summer, and what you see is that he has a really strong hold among African-American voters," Mitchell said. "When you talk to his supporters, they may not be as excited about him, but they think that he's the person who can take on President Trump."

For more of Major's conversation with Sganga, Mitchell and Bidar, download "The Takeout" podcast on  iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson and Sara Cook
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