Caucus Crazy 2020 — Democratic Debacle?

Morning-After Walk of Shame

Pete Buttigieg supporters stand to be counted at Precinct 62. | Credit: Lawrence Gamble

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If you are paying attention to reporting out of Iowa this morning you know there are many snappy lines to describe the mess the Iowa caucus process is in right now. It is 7:30 a.m. here, and the state Democratic Party has yet to announce any results. The candidates stayed up late last night to talk to their supporters, but as there were no results, claiming victory was challenging, except for Mayor Peter. Relying on his campaign’s own numbers Pete was the sole candidate to claim a victory in Iowa. This was, in my opinion, a high-risk, high-reward strategy. If the numbers, which we all hope will be released sometime today, show him in second or even third place, then his claim of victory will probably hold. If he ends up in fourth, however, he will have proverbial egg on his face.

The big loser due to no results? The pundits say Bernie, because he had the most volunteers, the most robust ground game, and was expecting to be able to address the crowd last night and tell them all their hard work paid off. As the scene now shifts to New Hampshire, a neighbor state to his home Vermont, he is expected to do well next week in their primary. But he lacks the Iowa “bounce” that has proven to be so helpful to candidates in the past.

NBC reporter (and UCSB grad) Katy Tur at Precinct 62 at Drake University, Iowa

The big winner(s)? It looks like Joe Biden will probably come in fourth, which will be a dismal result. He continues to lead in national polling in a match-up with Trump, but he was hoping (and recent polling suggested) to come in second last night; third place as worst-case scenario. His campaign has already delivered a letter to the Iowa Democratic Party complaining about the irregularities in the caucus process, probably as a way to partially insulate him from a bad result. Whether that will have the desired effect is anyone’s guess. But a bad result in Iowa will not help with fundraising, something that has dogged Biden from the start. So, the fact that Sanders did not claim victory last night may be seen to help Biden.

The other big winner may be Michael Bloomberg. As I said earlier, he is skipping the first four contests and investing heavily in the Super Tuesday states (including California). A muddled result here, with Biden looking weak and Mayor Pete being too young and inexperienced, might be just what he needs to slip into the public consciousness as a viable candidate in the moderate “lane” of the party. Many Democrats, particularly older Democrats, have not bought into the message being delivered by the more progressive candidacies of Sanders and Warren. According to MSNBC caucus-night entry polling, for older voters, Mayor Pete is their preference after Joe Biden.

I told you last night that the caucus turnout in Precinct 62 was decent, but much less than expected. As I sat there in Knapp Center, I had plenty of time to contemplate this fact. One thing I know from having been there: The weather was not a factor in keeping people home. It was cold, but not unusually so, and as 62 is an urban precinct there were no adverse road conditions to keep people at home, and yet the 1,200 expected voters weren’t in the room. Here’s the theory: Potential Bloomberg supporters in Precinct 62 knowing Bloomberg wasn’t an option, chose to not caucus because they didn’t want to vote for someone they really didn’t believe in. I know it sounds far-fetched, but all political punditry (and punditry in general) consists of guesses which in the fullness of time are often proven wrong!

When the results come in I hope to get an insight into the demographics of who supported whom last night. I already know that Sanders and Warren spent much of their time in college towns, and that looks like it paid off in college towns. But most voters are not college students, so it will be interesting to see who did well in the exurbs and the non-college cities.

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