Trying to make sense out of the Iowa Caucuses

At this point, there remain only two possible winners of the Iowa Caucuses. While we wait on the Iowa Democratic Party, let’s look at what this all means and the implications the events of last night have on the remaining contests.

Bernie won. Or maybe Pete. But probably not.

This is the best data we have available to us. The Sanders campaign put out internal polling numbers that show 40% reporting of what they are calling “representative precincts.” The campaign released this shortly after Mayor Pete prematurely declared victory late last night. There is some good politicking going on by the two campaigns. The most likely scenarios are either a close victory by either side or a slightly more modest Sanders win. If Mayor Pete pulled off a close win, I would not be surprised to see that Sanders won the First Count of votes.

We will have to see the final numbers to truly know what is going on here. Bernie might be playing defense. There is a chance that they have more data available than what they are showing us. They might suspect that someone will win a close one but wanted to make sure Mayor Pete does not get to carry the “victory” narrative. They also have valid reasons to not trust the DNC, which I will get into later. They very well could have been robbed of making their own victory speech or of replicating their “virtual tie” speech from four years ago. There are a lot of special interests out there who do not want to see Bernie do well. Without the full results, there is nothing to stop Mayor Pete from trying to pick up some much needed momentum heading into the New Hampshire Primary. #FirstInTheNation

Who does this mess really help? The general public not knowing the full results is a big help to seemingly everyone not named Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg. If Bernie’s internal numbers were to project out, which is not a given when we are missing 60% of the data, there appears to be a pretty big gap from the top-2 to the rest of the field. Bernie and Pete would have been able to separate themselves. Last night’s delay allowed everyone to stay in the race. The calls for certain candidates to “drop out” would have started up with results that mirror what you see above. Each candidate, however, was able to speculate that the caucus results were extremely close and make a pitch to their supporters for some fundraising help. Everyone made the trip to New Hampshire.

Campaigns can also call out the process of the Iowa Caucuses, trying to delegitimize the end results. Biden lawyers have already written a letter to the Iowa Democratic Party on this topic. Based on what we know, that move is laughable by the campaign because it looks like they did not have a good night. Will the average voter be able to see through that? The longer this goes on, the stronger the case looks that the process was unfair even if you did not have a good showing. Biden can use the cloudiness of the Iowa Caucus results to try to keep his campaign above water.

If Biden goes 0 for 3 in the first three contests, will his firewall come crashing down in South Carolina? We already know Bernie’s base is much more diverse than the media would have you to believe. How will Super Tuesday be impacted if Biden wins a close one in South Carolina or loses? We already know that he is having a hard time raising money. He walked back on his pledge not to take Super PAC money months ago. Pete is trying to occupy the space of voters made up of his current supporters, Joe’s supporters, and Amy’s supporters. With the way we think Iowa will go, New Hampshire could turn out to be a two person race between Bernie and Pete.

Bernie is not going anywhere with his (diverse & loyal) base and his (small donor) fundraising prowess. He also looks poised to win Nevada. Pete needs New Hampshire more than Bernie does. Pete will struggle with less white states unless he becomes the jazzy moderate candidate of choice in a smaller field. He needs to get a larger share of moderate votes on Super Tuesday. He needs voters that are eyeing Biden and Klobuchar.

How will Oligarch Bloomberg impact the race? What does it say about our democracy if someone worth $60 billion can buy the nomination off of their interest, all while sitting out the first several states? This establishes a dangerous precedent. While Iowa and New Hampshire are not the most representative states and knowing that there are very real challenges to voting in a caucus, every nominee of the last forty years from both parties (except Bill Clinton) has won at least one of the two.

Bloomberg will surely use the debacle in Iowa to broadcast his case that someone with his business acumen and somehow outsider status should be the next President. Our elections should not be for sale. Period. If you are bothered by the word “oligarch” you need to think about how the wealthy manipulate systems to maintain power. What do they do with that power? They build wealth for themselves and their friends. Why would you think a billionaire is going to look out for the middle class? The rich won’t save us.

A quick check in on Bernie/Warren/the DNC — Last night we saw some really moving images of progressive voters supporting their candidates. Bernie has changed the conversation that Democrats are having. Bernie and Warren took approximately 50% (30- Bernie, 20- Warren) of the above vote. They made progressives choose between the two of them. It appears as though both the Warren and Sanders campaigns were viable in a good number of precincts. It is a very real possibility that Buttigieg benefited the most from Biden/Klobuchar voters moving from the first count to the final count. Voters do not always match ideology in the way that they should. Some of those voters might have moved to Warren or Sanders. Either way, there was an impact on the end result. We saw evidence of Bernie splitting delegate shares even when he had the highest number of voters at some of the individual caucus sites. That is what happens when the progressive vote gets divided.

So with that, I’ll make my pitch for #PresidentSanders. I really like Elizabeth Warren, but Bernie Sanders is the candidate running the furthest to the left. This means when it comes down to policy, I would rather have Bernie Sanders in office. Bernie has already shown that he understands social movements and organizing. He has a strong infrastructure with Our Revolution, with community groups (think Sunrise + DSA, think volunteers, think small money donors), and with organized labor. He is putting himself in position to come out of the first three contests as the top progressive candidate, and maybe the top candidate overall. If Pete, Biden, or Bloomberg, start to gain traction, Warren and Sanders supporters cannot continue to split the vote. Warren and Sanders supporters have a different vision for America than the other candidates. It is one that raises up the 99%, one that holds corporations accountable, one that gets big money out of politics, one that does better on health care and on climate change. If we truly want change, a political revolution, we might want to start thinking strategically, as moderate supporters did last night, and how the establishment has done since Bernie announced his candidacy in 2015.

It is time we put someone in the White House who unapologetically fights for the working class, someone who fights side by side with the working class.

Union/Political Organizer @SEIU. Alum @BarackObama. Chicago living. Blood clot survivor. 15x marathon finisher. Always looking for better.