February 5, 2020

Iowa Caucus Results

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

On Tuesday, partial results from the Iowa Democratic Caucuses showed Pete Buttigieg with a narrow lead over Bernie Sanders in delegates awarded. Politico

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From the Left

The left sees a continuing rift between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic party, and criticizes Iowa’s use of caucuses.

“It is fair to conclude that the Democratic Party’s center is panicking, and it is now fair to conclude that it has good cause: With 62 percent of Iowa caucus results in, Mr. Sanders leads the popular vote, with 26.3 percent. He trails former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., in state delegates by a slim margin. But with Mr. Buttigieg struggling in primary polls in New Hampshire and Nevada, it seems unlikely his campaign has the kind of momentum that could lead to the nomination. Thus, the greater Iowa upset is that heir apparent Vice President Joe Biden is a distant fourth. With Mr. Biden’s front-runner status compromised, Mr. Sanders emerges from Iowa as a formidable candidate…

“Mr. Sanders leads the popular vote in Iowa not because he is favored by entrenched powers within the Democratic Party or because he has institutional support in the form of steady contributions from policy-minting think tanks, big donors or major political pundits. On the contrary, Mr. Sanders leads the popular vote despite lacking all of those mainstays of traditional electoral success, and in defiance of a vigorous tide of establishment attacks.”
Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times

“The results that have been tallied so far are worse than Biden -- who had told reporters the Friday before the caucuses that ‘there's a big difference between second and fourth’ -- had hoped. And popular vote numbers indicating Biden fell behind the 15% viability threshold to win delegates in some precincts were a clear indictment of his campaign's weak organizing effort in the state. The former vice president must now answer new doubts about his core argument: If a candidate who has framed his campaign around the notion that he's more electable than his rivals loses the first election of the nominating process, where does that leave him?
Eric Bradner, CNN

“Imagine a year or so ago if you had been told the millennial, gay mayor of a relatively small Midwestern city would beat a former vice president in the first contest. It would have been nearly unthinkable. And he’s apparently got a real shot at finishing first, which would just be a huge bonus. At issue now: Whether he can expand his support across the country, where he remains more of an also-ran than a contender, and particularly among minority voters. Until he can do the latter, it will be difficult to consider him as a real threat to win the nomination.”
Aaron Blake, Washington Post

“In these polarized times, Buttigieg is something of a Presidential throwback: a young, hyper-articulate, center-left Democrat who hails from the middle of the country. Will he be able to surge in New Hampshire, where he has been in fourth place in the polls? And can he broaden his appeal to minority voters, who will play a key role in Nevada and South Carolina, and also on Super Tuesday?…

“Rising above the individual candidates, the partial results from Iowa showed a fairly even split between the Democratic Party’s progressive and moderate wings. The preliminary tally shows Sanders, Warren, and Yang, who supports a universal basic income, with 51,821 votes between them. Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar have 54,894 votes combined… These numbers point to a protracted and competitive primary, which could end in a contested convention. There is a long, long way to go before the outcome is decided. Hopefully, the rest of the contest will go more smoothly.”
John Cassidy, New Yorker

“If we’re really lucky, this might be the occasion for some significant reform. The absolute minimum that should be done is for Iowa to switch from a caucus to a primary… What would be even better is if we finally took the opportunity to end Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status… We have to release ourselves from the tyranny of this state and its stubborn voters. Let me speak for those of us in the other 49: We’re pretty sick and tired of you Iowans telling us how it’s so important that you have this privilege for all eternity because you ‘take it so seriously.’ If you took it seriously, you wouldn’t use this insane voting process. And maybe more than 16 percent of you would actually turn out to vote… No one state deserves the status Iowa took for itself, and it has shown it can’t manage it. The country needs to take control of the election out of Iowa’s hands.”
Paul Waldman, Washington Post

A former Democratic congressman from Iowa argues, however, that “None of [the mishaps] diminishes the value of the Iowa process. Our state retains the features that have made it valuable to the country at large: A small enough population base that real voters get to see, hear and measure the fiber of those who would be our next president; Terrain that is affordable to travel even for the long-shot candidate, who otherwise would be lost in a New York or California; Politics that are open, honest and not governed by a kingmaker. Although not a diverse state, Iowa has voted with diversity, rewarding a black American, a woman and now an openly gay former mayor with significant support… In Iowa, we feel that those who would destroy us would end up with a contest matching our billionaire vs. the Republicans’ richest candidate. That is not what a democracy is supposed to be, and so we say, Iowa, fight on.”
Dave Nagle, USA Today

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right sees current results as a major loss for Biden and criticizes the Democratic party.

From the Right

The right sees current results as a major loss for Biden and criticizes the Democratic party.

“Biden, the big loser of the actual voting, is probably the biggest winner of the tabulation debacle: It obscures just how much he slipped beneath his polling, lets Iowa be swallowed up by other stories (the State of the Union, impeachment, coronavirus and then … New Hampshire!), and makes it modestly more likely that he can limp through to South Carolina with a chance to make a stand…

“[But] even if Biden melts down, Buttigieg’s window to become the moderate choice could be a narrow one, lasting only until Mike Bloomberg’s money comes to bear — in which case every day we’re litigating outcomes is a lost one for his campaign… the whole night went beautifully [for Bloomberg]: A wounded Biden and a Buttigieg deprived of the full benefits of victory is pretty much all that Bloomberg could have hoped for in his apparent plan to be the last non-Sanders option standing when Super Tuesday rolls around in March.”
Ross Douthat, New York Times

“If Biden really wants his party to have an electable nominee, he will drop out now and invite into the race a new entrant representing old-style, Hubert Humphrey liberalism, as opposed to the left-progressivism most of the 2020 Democratic candidates espouse…

“Biden had every advantage in Iowa. He began with the best and most positive name recognition. He had run before, so he should have had a head start (on everybody except Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders) on the nuts-and-bolts of a campaign, with at least the remnants of an organization in place. He is running when voters cite ‘electability’ against Trump as a key concern, and polls (rightly or wrongly) showed him as the Democrats’ most electable choice. Finally, he had the state almost all to himself for the final two weeks, with the Senate impeachment trial keeping three of the other top contestants in the nation’s capital. If he couldn’t make Iowa at least close, he evinces a politically hollow campaign.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

Regarding the caucus procedures, “Instead of carrying out a relatively simple task — holding a vote, tabulating the results and declaring a winner — Iowa Democrats designed a system so cumbersome and unwieldy that it overwhelmed them…

“What we saw in Iowa on Monday night was democratic socialism in action. A small group of people, brimming with confidence that exceeds their abilities, designed an unworkable system, failed to see its obvious flaws, were shocked by its inevitable failure and then made excuses when it became an unmitigated catastrophe. If you liked the Iowa caucuses, you’ll love government-run health care. The same party that could not manage calculating the votes of about 200,000 Iowa caucus-goers wants you to trust them with managing one-tenth of the U.S. economy.”
Mark Thiessen, Washington Post

“The chaos in Iowa may be the fault of the party apparatus, not the candidates, but it illustrates perfectly the Democrats’ ill-fated philosophy that all it takes is a centrally operated, technologically sophisticated plan — and a lot of money — to make things better. Who will run Medicare for All? It’ll be liberal activists and technocrats like the ones behind Shadow, the app makers who bungled Iowa. But don’t worry — this time it’ll work

“Trump has his faults. He can be reckless and nasty. But do you really want to change horses now and hand the keys of the kingdom — and a $20 trillion economy — to people who can’t count votes?”
Charles Gasparino, New York Post

“This is a reminder that changing electoral systems to satisfy populist demands should be done with care, because the unintended consequences can further undermine their legitimacy… We wonder if any of the Democrats who feel as if they wasted months and hundreds of millions of dollars in Iowa are having second thoughts about calls to eliminate the Electoral College… such state-level failures highlight the perils of a nationwide system for popular vote counting. At least here the failure is contained, and let’s hope it can be rectified without calling the entire presidential nominating contest into question.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“In theory, this year's caucuses ought to have been the most competitive in the party's history. The field is arguably more crowded with genuinely viable candidates than any Democratic field has been before. And the urgency that Democrats say they feel to defeat Trump is record-breaking. Yet, turnout for this bellwether nominating contest, which has chosen the Democratic nominee in seven of the last nine contested nomination battles, was no better than when Queen Hillary was a certainty, there were only two campaigns driving the turnout, and there was no hated Republican president to defeat…

“Sure, the media and the Democratic Party think impeachment is important. Sure, they have fumed over Trump's recent killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and scoffed at his criminal justice reform advertisements. But the rest of the country? They're pretty OK with him. That's why Democrats didn't turn out in especially large numbers in Iowa, and it's why Trump is in an unusually strong position headed toward reelection.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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