Tag Archives: Iowa

Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images

Reading the Tea Leaves in the Iowa Disaster

New Orleans      The best thing to come out of the Iowa caucus disaster is the delay, which continues even now, because it prevents preemptive determination of a winner until the full totals are known, rather than allowing the headlines to anoint someone who seems to have won, giving them unearned momentum, when later it turns out that another candidate won more delegates.  The latest with 97% of the caucus results supposed tallied is a virtual tie between small-town mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  At this writing there’s less than a one-tenth of a point difference between the two with Mayor Pete ahead by a nose.  Their delegate counts are identical.  Who is the winner?  In reality, no one.  Looking more closely though, there are a lot of losers.

The map makes it clear that Minnesota’s Senator Amy Klobuchar is toast.  Her Amy from the middle of the road next door didn’t survive the caucuses as a serious alternative.  Unless I’m off the mark, she may have only won one county.  She is likely history after New Hampshire, and is only still hanging by a thread there, because Iowa was so late out of the blocks.  The winnowing is also likely to count billionaire, hedge fund veteran Tom Steyer with 1% and Andrew Yang who has gotten farther than any might have figured but was nowhere here.

Looking at the numbers, Sanders seems like the winner, if this had been a vote, rather than a caucus.  From the numbers reported by the Democratic party and shown in the Washington Post, Sanders won 42,672 of the first choices to Buttigieg’s 36,718.  In a caucus, the second and other choices are able to then combine later, but if this had been a ballot, Sanders was the winner by a large margin.  Dear ol’ Iowa still thinks it’s horseshoes, not a horse race.

The question of appeal also should disturb the political pros in all the campaigns.  Polk County, where Des Moines is located, is about the only place in this corn-fed, white state that can even pretend to be somewhat diverse, and there it was a push between the two candidates at the end.  The rest of the map makes it look like the appeal for Mayor Pete was rural and whiter and for Sanders slightly more urban in the counties he “won” outright.  The Democrats are an urban party, not a rural one.  They have a chance of beating Trump on the streets, but not in the sticks.

Senator Elizabeth Warren who reportedly had the strongest organization going into the caucuses did depressingly poorly in a situation where organization usually rules.  Former VP Biden who was expected to do poorly with a weak organization, delivered solidly on those expectations.   There’s trouble a plenty for both campaigns.

Here’s one other takeaway that should give any of us hoping to beat Trump nightmares.  Turnout was about the same as 2016 in Iowa and far, far below the 240,000 that came out for Obama back in the day.  The notion that the resistance and the time to make it all right again is going to move voters to the polls was decidedly not in evidence in Iowa.  These candidates have not set the rank-and-file, grassroots on fire. There’s nothing but trouble on the horizon unless something sorts out better soon.


Organization versus Passion: Iowa to Clinton, Hampshire to Sanders

Street protests surrounding Madison Square Garden, site of the 1980 Democratic National Convention.

Street protests surrounding Madison Square Garden, site of the 1980 Democratic National Convention.

Little Rock   I favored both teams heading for the Super Bowl, but I don’t bet on sports. I’ve been all over Nevada, visited Reno and Vegas scores of times, but I’ve spent my money on cheap breakfasts while there, figuring my odds of winning were the same as they would be if I just threw money in the street. The biggest difference is that the cash I would be losing might go to someone who needs it, rather than lining the pockets of some mega-rich, and probably Republican, casino mogul. But, handicapping political races is almost a citizen’s obligation in the United States, so eventually we have to calculate the odds and pick some winners.

I’m calling Iowa for Hillary Clinton and, perhaps sentimentally, New Hampshire for Bernie Sanders.

Unquestionably, Hillary Clinton is in trouble. Despite the churning in the Republican list, I can’t even describe fully how worried I am about the general election. The negatives, the distrust, the sound of calculating, grinding machinery more than the sizzle of soaring hope and promise, are worrisome even against an unknown. I’m not hearing voters demanding experience and seasoning, and that’s what Hillary offers in spades. At least at this point.

Bernie Sanders has invigorated his underdog status with as much bite as bark. He has undoubtedly pushed Clinton more to the left and fully into President Obama’s arms. He has not shied from socialism and has legitimized progressives. He has held his own in the “money” race while eschewing super-PACs and embracing small donors. As opposed to Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and a host of wannabes on the other side, he would actually be a great President.

But, then there’s Iowa. Election after election on each four-year cycle, we’ve been there and done that with ACORN beginning in 1980. Passion might enliven the base but stone cold organization is what puts bottoms in the chairs and welds the discipline to the numbers to deliver delegates at the end of the night. The level of pure chaos in an Iowa caucus events is amazing. We’ve seen times where ACORN organizers were asked to do the count in frenzied rooms where there was no way to determine the real numbers and where no one asked where they were from or who they were! We’ve walked into caucuses where we delivered huge numbers and been horns-woggled at the end of the night with nothing, hours later. We’ve also walked in with almost nothing and come out with a handful of delegates. There are other issues proposed. Resolutions on all manner of things. Organization matters. A lot!

Even if Sanders and Clinton are neck and neck with great managers and huge campaigns, the campaign that is the best organized is going to win there. Clinton gets Iowa.

Sanders will do well though, and I think he will do well enough to go back to New Hampshire in his own Vermont backyard and win.

Likely a last hurrah before heading South, but it’s something, and we might be able to make something out of it in the future, if we can survive the year.