That was strange.
Described as the opening act of the 2020 election season, the Iowa caucuses were wilder than anyone could have ever predicted. It was an absolute disaster, a you-know-what up of massive scale. Somehow, the Iowa Democratic Party managed to make everyone wrong in their predictions, and the fallout will be huge.
Here are five takeaways from the Iowa caucuses.
There will never be another Iowa caucus.
Already, it looked like Iowa’s status was on its last legs. Julian Castro campaigned on moving the first voting rights to a state more representative of the Democratic party, and massive reform followed criticism after the 2016 Bernie Sanders-driven caucus scandal. Even if everything went smoothly, Iowa may have been looking at the last 20 years of its first-in-the-nation status.
Then #CaucusGate happened. (Is anyone calling it that?)
If there’s one thing we can know for sure from this, it is that Iowa’s 20-ish year countdown just got the wind knocked out of it. Those Midwesterners will not be seeing all the candidates even just four years down the road, because this was an utter disaster of epic proportions that you wouldn’t believe if it was in a Harry Potter book.
It’s not as if Iowa can just move to a primary and call it a day. New Hampshire literally has a law that states it must be the first state in the nation to hold a primary, and Bill Gardner — NH’s secretary of state — has shown that he will stop at nothing to uphold the state’s status.
This was the last straw, and the Iowa caucuses are dead.
Pete Buttigieg won, and not just in terms of delegates.
By withholding his speech until all other candidates had given their’s, Buttigieg gained a key advantage — he could see what the others were saying and not saying, and how they were spinning the night when they had next to no results. And his team took a gamble, claiming victory with what could become a famous quote: “Iowa, you have shocked the nation.”
Of course, Buttigieg’s team knew a lot more than any of us knew. They had information collected by the campaign that indicated he won, or at least came a close second, to Bernie Sanders. But by being the sole candidate to claim victory, Buttigieg benefited from a full cycle of news coverage devoted to his success. That, plus more than 10 minutes of unvarnished air time.
Even if he didn’t win the most delegates — which, at this time, he is leading — Buttigieg won the spin game.
Pete Buttigieg also lost.
But of course, he also lost. If the full results had been announced in good time, showing that Buttigieg won (or came a close second), it could have been very good news for Team Pete. Instead of the news cycle being dominated by reports of Iowa’s collapse, it would have been dominated by the feel-good story of a 38-year-old gay former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, shocking the world.
And that — the bump in polling from all of the positive media coverage — could have boosted him to a competitive, or even leading, place in New Hampshire and increased his standing among minority voters.
Instead, he’s just as likely to fizzle out in New Hampshire and die a hard death in Nevada and South Carolina.
Joe Biden needs a Nevada- and South Carolina-sized miracle.
For Joe Biden, whose worst-case scenario came true in Iowa, is now in an increasingly weak position. I never expected Biden to win Iowa, but I thought he would come in a strong second, fail in New Hampshire (as we all expected), then move on with strong performances in Nevada and South Carolina, eventually winning the nomination.
But of course, Biden finished a distant fourth and will likely do the same in New Hampshire. That leaves the supposed front-runner in this race in fourth, showing voters in Nevada and South Carolina absolutely no reason why he should be seen as electable — or as a good president. Despite every effort that Biden’s campaign made to downplay the results of Iowa, this may have been the beginning of the end.
As with any of these takeaways, there’s always the #CaucusGate factor, which may have saved Biden. Biden may have also been saved by the trashed Des Moines Register poll, which reportedly showed the former vice president in fourth, with just 13 percent of the vote.
Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang conveniently live to see another day.
While the delay in the vote announcement may have hurt Buttigieg, it certainly helped Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang. What normally would winnow the field and force them to dropout became a cause and reason for continuing their campaigns.
Of course, the logic still stands that they have absolutely no chance at winning. Klobuchar did surprisingly well in first alignment, collecting 12.8 percent of the vote (as we know know it so far), but failed to pick up any delegates and, after all, her only chance at winning was Iowa. Andrew Yang was never expected to drop out of after Iowa, but if he had done particularly well, it would’ve been seen as a breakout performance that could have parlayed him some media coverage and perhaps a cabinet spot in the next administration.
Now that we don’t know the results — or at least didn’t for almost 24 hours — Klobuchar and Yang can keep on campaigning. They live to see another day.
From a pure politics stance, these past few days have been exhilarating. It’s been fun to theorize over all the permutations that this could lead to, and as a politics junkie, I’ve enjoyed every minute.
But on the other hand, it’s been an absolute disaster. Each to their own.
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