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Will Iowa Feel The Bern Again Tonight?

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Well, it’s no shock, but Sen. Bernie Sanders has the best shot at winning most of the delegates in the Iowa caucuses tonight. The left-wing firebrand did just fine in 2016 in this contest. Hillary Clinton edged out Sanders, but barely. I would bet the mortgage that The Des Moines Register poll had Bernie in the lead, but alas—we don’t have the information. The poll was deep-sixed after the Pete Buttigieg campaign complained about how the poll was conducted. While not the best indicator for who will win the 2020 election, Iowa has been a good gauge on how will clinch the Democratic nomination. Since 1976, 70 percent of Democrats who ran and won this event eventually became the nominee. Is it Bernie? FiveThirtyEight gives him a 41 percent chance of reigning supreme tonight. Iowa felt the Bern in 2016.


Nate Silver crunched the numbers. With a more loaded field, Sanders is expected to walk away with at least 14 of the 41 possible delegates up for grabs, but he’s followed closely by Biden and Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. You’d think Amy Klobuchar would have a better-projected showing, but that’s not the case:

Sanders is forecasted to win an average of 14 pledged delegates out of a possible 41. In 80% of simulations, he wins between 2 and 22 delegates. He has a 2 in 5 (43%) chance of winning the most delegates, slightly better than the second most likely winner, Biden, who has a 1 in 3 (34%) chance.

Iowa will award 41 pledged delegates: 14 will be given out based on the statewide vote, and 27 will be given out based on the vote in its congressional districts.


The Joe Biden camp is still holding out hope of pulling an upset. Sanders and Warren have been stuck in D.C. for the Donald Trump impeachment fiasco that’s engulfed the Hill. Sanders has entrusted his right-hand woman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to keep the campaign fires going in the state. Both equally animate the state’s progressive base. Not shocking, but I am curious to see what that Des Moines Register revealed. Is Mayor Pete in trouble? His campaign made the grievance. I think Sanders might be on top here, which explains the Democratic National Committee rigging the debate rules to get Mike Bloomberg in there to hold the left-wing loons at bay—maybe? If Bernie wins, just watch the Democratic establishment meltdown and maybe, in the future, we’ll see Barack Obama resurface and try to meddle himself in the primaries to prevent a Bernie candidacy. He is the one person who Obama reportedly does not want to be leading the party in this election cycle. Then again, Obama doesn’t sound to be too thrilled about Biden 2020 either. It’s the sign that the 2020 field is weak sauce—and there really isn’t anyone running who can beat Trump. That baseline hasn’t changed since the first debate. 



UPDATE: Unreleased Iowa poll has Sanders in the lead (via 538):

If you’re the sort of person who was glued to political Twitter on Saturday night — and God help you if you are — you would have seen a mass freak-out when it was announced that that the Des Moines Register would not release the much-anticipated final version of its Iowa Poll (conducted in conjunction with CNN and Selzer & Co.). The Buttigieg campaign got word that at least one survey respondent had been read an incomplete questionnaire that did not include Buttigieg’s name. “While this appears to be isolated to one surveyor, that could not be confirmed with certainty,” the executive editor of the paper wrote, and acting with an abundance of caution, they declined to release the poll at all. 

Nevertheless, a tweet made the rounds that night purporting to give the poll’s results, and after doing some reporting around this, FiveThirtyEight can confirm that it contains the correct final findings of the unreleased Iowa poll: Sanders 22 percent, Warren 18 percent, Buttigieg 16 percent, Biden 13 percent. Imagine the news cycle that would have been, with national front-runner Biden making such a poor showing in the last, highest-profile poll before the caucuses. 

It should be noted that Selzer and Co., the pollster in charge of the Iowa Poll, has an A+ on our FiveThirtyEight Pollster Rating. You can read my 2016 profile of Ann Selzer here.



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