The One Number That Makes the Iowa Caucuses Key for Democrats

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Posted: Feb 03, 2020 1:00 PM
The One Number That Makes the Iowa Caucuses Key for Democrats

Source: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Over the weekend, The Des Moines Register decided to deep-six their much-anticipated poll before their state’s caucuses which will be held at 7 P.M. CST. That poll is the gauge as to who will secure the first win of the 2020 election cycle for a Democratic Party whose nomination is up for grabs. Yes, Joe Biden is in the lead in most of the previous polls, but it’s been chipped away. It’s buoyed by name recognition, not his policies. And he’s become the brunt of both jokes and anxiety among observers and fellow Democrats respectively. A man seen as an ace in retail politics has tripped up so many times, it’s become a now guaranteed trip to the hospital if it were to be made into a drinking game. So, what happened with the poll? Well, apparently, there were issues with how the survey was conducted according to Pete Buttigieg’s campaign (via Politico):

The widely anticipated Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers was scrapped shortly before it was set to be released Saturday night after complaints from Pete Buttigieg's campaign about how it was conducted.

The stunning announcement by the media sponsors and West Des Moines-based pollster Selzer & Co. means the results of the historically accurate survey won't be released before Monday caucuses. The decision left the campaign and political media universe, which has descended on Des Moines, dumbfounded.

Buttigieg's campaign raised serious concerns about the poll with CNN and the Register, a source familiar with the situation said.

Lis Smith, a senior adviser to Buttigieg's campaign, confirmed on Twitter that the former South Bend (Ind.) mayor's campaign had been in touch with the media outlets about the issues and hailed their decision to withhold the results.

"Our campaign received a report from a recipient of the Iowa Poll call, raising concerns that not every candidate was named by the interviewer when asked who they support," Smith tweeted. "We shared this with the organizations behind the poll, who conducted an internal investigation and determined not to release it. We applaud CNN and the Des Moines Register for their integrity."

Yeah, that sucks. We’ve all heard the criticisms of the Iowa Caucuses with regards to picking the winners of a presidential race, but it is a good window into who will win the Democratic nomination. Seventy percent of the Democratic winners of this contest have gone on to secure the party’s nomination since 1976. Iowa is also an 89 percent match with the demographics of the U.S., according to WalletHub [emphasis mine]:

Since the 1970s, however, Iowa has been the first state to confirm — or rather predict — a presidential hopeful’s success in the ensuing primaries and likelihood of advancement in the race. Iowa’s role, in effect, is to weed out the ineffective candidates, but it does not guarantee who will win the party nomination.

Iowa has gone to great lengths to secure its position as the first primary-election state. However, this caucus doesn’t actually have that good of a track record of predicting election results. Since 1976, 70 percent of Democratic winners in Iowa have received their party’s nomination, but only 37.5 percent of Republicans have. In addition, only 20% of Democrats and 12.5% of Republicans who have won Iowa have also been elected president.

Source: WalletHub

Source: WalletHub

Again, not saying whoever wins this contest tonight will go on to win the election, but for Democrats, whoever wins historically has a solid shot of becoming the 2020 nominee. In 2016, the poll had Clinton with a slight edge over Sanders. She won the caucuses, though there was some odd business with precincts being decided by coin toss. If I had to bet, I think Bernie Sanders should either have a solid showing or outright win the caucuses. He came very, very close last time.