Gearing Up for 2020: My Predictions for the Iowa Caucus
Soon we are going to be in the heart of the 2020 elections. The wall to wall coverage of the election has already begun, and it is only going to ramp up as we move closer to February.
February 3rd, 2020, is the first moment of the election where the rubber will meet the road. Candidates will be able to see how their messages are reverberating with voters and what impact they are going to have in the race. Iowa isn't the end-all of presidential primaries, but its placement in the election timeline makes it a crucial state. Here are some things to look for on election night in Iowa.
1. Biden doesn't need to win. But he does need to show up.
The Biden campaign does not have to win Iowa in order to succeed in the election. Iowa is not the end all be all for Biden's presidential hopes. The Iowa voter demographics and the process itself does not paint a particularly hopeful picture for the former Vice President. The electorate there is very white and does not include many of the minority voters that made up the coalition that got Obama and Biden elected in the past. In addition, Iowa being a caucus state doesn't bode well for the campaign.
As is often the case, candidates with more excitement behind their campaign do better in Iowa due to the nature of the Democratic caucuses. The caucuses are a chaotic and fluid environment in which voters can sway other voters to their side. It naturally lends itself to having an advantage for the candidate with the most passionate supporters. No one at this point could make a valid case for a Biden campaign that is passionate and full of a committed voter base.
Some states directly after Iowa look more favorable for the Vice President, such as South Carolina. South Carolina has a much larger minority population that will more than likely lean in favor of Biden. However promising future states may look to the campaign, they know they have to show up in Iowa first. They cannot look as if they are too far behind in the delegate count when those other states get to their election dates. If you are the Biden campaign right now, you are hoping for the worst-case scenario to be a second-place finish. Anything else and you may be done before you even got started.
2. Warren has to win Iowa. Maybe.
Elizabeth Warren's campaign is tailored made for the Iowa democrats. It is a populist message with broad support. Her support has changed throughout the election but it seems as if her popularity is surging just at the right time. She will need to hold onto this momentum until February. A second-place finish for Warren means she is having trouble translating her popularity into actual votes and the states directly after Iowa indicate that problem won't get any better for her campaign. To put it simply, if Warren is going to start surging to the top anywhere it is going to be in Iowa. If it isn't in Iowa it is hard to see any other climates where her campaign can get a foothold.
3. Buttigieg has to win Iowa.
Out of the top four candidates on the Democratic ticket, Buttigieg is the only one who has to win Iowa. He is currently number one in some of the polling coming out of the state. He has been surging as of late along with Warren, but it is impossible to know how long that will last. The South Bend mayor was an unknown just a year ago and has made a name for himself as a more centrist candidate. Where others have reached for the middle and failed, Buttigigeg has somehow found success. All that being said, there is another major centrist (Biden) in the race with a lot more name recognition. It is crucial that Buttigieg make a name for himself in Iowa and direct the narrative. If he comes out of Iowa as a winner, then all the attention goes to him in the upcoming elections. He would immediately have a more effective platform to get his message to voters in other states.
If he loses in Iowa, it's all over for him. Even a second-place finish is going to be tough, if not impossible to come back from. Anything less than first in Iowa makes the newcomer look like the first of the major four candidates to drop out.
4. Sanders needs at least second place.
Sanders has had trouble attracting non-white voters. And he may see his core voter demographic group of young educated voters picked away by other candidates. Warren and Buttigieg have been able to carve out some former Sanders supporters as the campaign has dragged on. The major threat to Sanders is Warren. Their ideological similarities indicate that they will both be drawing votes from the same pool of voters. Bernie may have tilted the narrative of the democratic party towards the left, but his opponents have taken his message and in some cases, improved on it. The Senator from Vermont will have a core group of supporters. It is the far left-leaning people on the fence however, that may lean towards one of the other candidates, that may make the difference.
In the Democratic race to replace Trump, you have four major candidates: two centrists in Biden and Buttigieg, and two left-leaning candidates in Warren and Sanders. The election will likely come down to one of the centrists vs. one of those on the left. In February, we will find out who those two candidates are.