Bernie Sanders’s supporters remain justifiably outraged at the way the results of the Iowa caucus were reported and misreported. Yet, there is much for these supporters to celebrate. Sanders, who declared victory in the Iowa caucus yesterday, leaves Iowa as the likely front-runner in the race for the 2020 Democratic primary. The corporate media will do everything they can to avoid acknowledging this, but the data do not leave room for any other logical conclusion.
Under tremendous pressure, embattled Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez called for a “recanvassing” of the Iowa vote on Thursday due to the major complications surrounding the process that has largely hindered Sanders to the benefit of Pete Buttigieg. According to The Hill, “Perez later said that only the results from caucus sites with apparent reporting issues needed to be reviewed.”
The Iowa Democratic Party released the final results on Thursday night, prompting CNN to declare the victory for Buttigieg even though Sanders received thousands more votes. This decision was based on the complicated “state delegate equivalent” (SDE) format. Numerous media outlets, however, refused to declare a victory, citing the closeness of the race and irregularities in the results. Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser for the Sanders campaign, disputed CNN’s declaration, saying the results validate Sanders as the winner: “Tonight’s release of data by the Iowa Democratic Party confirms Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Iowa caucus,” he said in a press statement. “We also feel confident that the discrepancies we’re providing tonight, in addition to those widely identified in the national media, mean that the SDE count will never be known with any kind of certainty … SDEs are now an antiquated and meaningless metric for deciding the winner of the Iowa caucus.”
Monday’s caucuses were expected to be resolved by Tuesday morning, but the Iowa Democratic Party and later the DNC further eroded trust in the entire Democratic primary process. Among the many examples of shady mishaps were the failure of a vote tallying app, which was developed by Democratic Party power brokers with serious conflicts of interest, and the curious decision to release incomplete results over a four-day period. Worse yet, The New York Times found more than 100 precincts reported irregularities in the voter data released by the Iowa Democratic Party.
Sanders did not make a prime-time victory speech on Monday night, but the campaign finds itself in a strong position now. Nate Silver’s polling model at FiveThirtyEight gives Sanders by far the best chance to win the nomination.
The model also shows Sanders as the favorite in a large majority of the Super Tuesday states, including South Carolina, where Joe Biden had long been favored. The first national poll (Morning Consult) released since Iowa shows Sanders leading and gaining a three-point bump.
Polling for the New Hampshire primary, which takes place on Tuesday, February 11, shows Bernie Sanders leading. A decisive victory for Sanders in New Hampshire could be a blow to the chances for Elizabeth Warren, who (like Sanders) represents a neighboring state. Sanders is also favored to win Warren’s home state of Massachusetts on Super Tuesday. Should this trend persist, Warren may find herself with no realistic path to the nomination.
“Thank you Iowa for bringing our campaign to victory,” said Sanders. “We are well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination and defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.”
Amid Confusion One Thing Is Clear: Biden Tumbles
Even in the fog of confusion over the results of the race, one fact that quickly became evident was the stunning collapse of Biden, who was treated as the presumptive front-runner for more than a year.
Biden’s camp tried to lower expectations heading into Iowa.
“If Amy [Klobuchar] or Pete does better than expected and is getting a ton of buzz going into New Hampshire, that’s really bad for Biden,” said one Democrat prior to the caucus. “The longer there are more moderate candidates fighting over table scraps while Bernie gains strength, the more narrow the path gets for him going forward.”
Finishing in fourth place, Biden failed to meet the 15 percent viability threshold in much of the state.
In precincts where Biden was not viable, many of his supporters chose to caucus with Buttigieg in the second round of voting. This helped the former South Bend mayor have a strong showing in the state, but it also creates chaos in the establishment wing of the party.
“Given that Biden’s whole appeal is on the basis of electability, it’s not a good look for him to be coming in at fourth place. And since Mayor Pete has no hope with minorities, that could leave the establishment without a viable candidate,” said Steve Maher, editor for the Socialist Register and a Bernie Sanders supporter, in an interview with Truthout. “Given recent polls showing that Biden’s much-touted South Carolina firewall could be collapsing, the way forward for Bernie seems clearer than ever.”
Biden tried to hide his woeful performance by requesting a lengthy audit of the process and later showing skepticism of the incomplete numbers released on Tuesday.
Biden is also struggling financially, according to Lee Fang of The Intercept. “Biden’s campaign is tapped out, over the last two weeks in Iowa, his lobbyist-run SuperPAC … is the only thing keeping him on air on par w/other candidates,” Fang tweeted. “It’s primarily funded by billionaire George Marcus, one of the largest property owners in California.”
Will Mayor Pete Take Over as Moderate Alternative to Biden?
Buttigieg performed well in Iowa, which his campaign was counting on. He made his first visit to Iowa in February 2019, and the decision to focus on Iowa was working; he surged to the top of polls in mid-November, according to the CNN/Des Moines Register (DMR) poll. This was helped in part by extremely favorable coverage by the corporate media.
The campaign’s first-place showing in Iowa faltered in the winter, when Buttigieg plummeted 10 points in the January 10 CNN-DMR poll. The last major poll before voting (Emerson College from February 2, 2020) showed him with 15 percent of the vote.
Despite his inconsistent polling, several people on the ground in Iowa said Buttigieg had a strong ground game and was dominating some affluent areas.
The problem for the establishment wing of the party is that Biden is viable in many more states than Buttigieg, especially South Carolina and Super Tuesday states, according to some recent polling. Buttigieg continues to struggle to build a diverse coalition and performs poorly among Black voters. His work with McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm that helps unsavory corporate clients engage in the most vile acts of capitalism, also became a source of controversy as well.
McKinsey, according to reports, has been complicit in “some of the most spectacular corporate and financial debacles of recent decades.” It has worked on behalf of numerous authoritarian regimes, drug companies complicit in the opiate crisis, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. These are not flattering associations to many potential voters in the Democratic Party primary.
Sanders Campaign Makes Case for Optimism
Regardless of Bernie Sanders’s showing in the first primary race of 2020, it was widely anticipated among progressives that the corporate media and Democratic Party establishment would paint his results in the most negative way possible. If Sanders came in first place, they would say the results are illegitimate. If he came in second, they would be writing his political obituary.
But the Iowa caucus results show that even when faced with unprecedented obstacles and dishonest brokers in charge of the Democratic Party primary process, the grassroots movement behind Sanders’s campaign can win.
“Yes, what happened was unfair to Bernie,” said Naomi Klein in a thread on Twitter. “Do not let that become the mood of this campaign… The organizers and volunteers in Iowa who worked their asses off for months have a right to feel angry, heart-broken and demoralized today. So let’s take good care of each other, it’s what movements do. And it’s going to be a long fight.”