So who’s really going to win the Iowa Caucuses next week? Your guess is as good as any other.
Trying to figure out who will win the Democratic Party’s first-in-the-nation presidential nomination contest is a complicated matter, as the top two contenders are currently in a statistical tie, per an NBC News/Wall Street Journal that was published on Friday.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the pack, with 27 percent support among Democratic-leaning voters in the state. Former Vice President Joe Biden is close behind, with 26 percent, and in third place is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with 15 percent.
Who will actually win, however, is even more complicated, due to the rules of the Iowa Caucus. Even though Sanders is in the lead, the advantage may be Biden’s going into Monday’s contest, if the polling numbers are true. BUT…it also depends on how well Warren does, too.
The Iowa Caucuses are different than other primaries, in that people are asked to take part in a more physical manner. First, voters sit in a designated spot at a voting center in support of their preferred candidate. The votes are tallied, and those whose candidate don’t meet a 15 percent threshold of the total votes in that ward are asked to consider a different candidate who does make that standard. Debate ensues, and the “re-vote” happens.
At that point, the votes are tallied up, and sent to be counted in the statewide totals.
Based on the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, there are two possible outcomes from this — one that results in a Biden win, and one that sees Sanders taking the “W.”
Scenario One: How Biden Wins
The first scenario is this: Sanders gets the most votes in the initial round, with Biden and Warren both making “the cut” to meet the 15 percent threshold in most wards. The remaining candidates with the next highest polling numbers — Michael Bloomberg (9 percent), Pete Buttigieg (7 percent), Amy Klobuchar (5 percent), and Andrew Yang (4 percent) — are mostly moderates, with perhaps the exception of Yang.
That’s good news for Biden. If voters see the former VP as the next best choice to their first pick, then those who chose Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar will likely fall into Biden’s column in the second-round voting. That’s a potential pick-up of 21 percent of the vote, though it will likely be much smaller just because different caucuses will have different outcomes.
Still, that high number of moderate voters, being forced to make a second pick, will all but assure Biden of a win on Monday night, when the final tallies are all counted up. It could, if conditions are right, even get him close to the 50 percent mark, though that is an overly optimistic outcome for the former vice president, to be sure.
Scenario Two: How Sanders Wins
Of course, there’s another outcome that’s possible, and more generous to Sanders, though it relies on Warren underperforming.
— John Iadarola (@johniadarola) January 26, 2020
Warren currently sits at 15 percent in the poll, which means that a lot of caucus sites will require her supporters to make a second pick. That benefits Sanders because the two candidates are very close to each other ideologically speaking. Both are considered the progressive picks within the Democratic primary contests.
That isn’t to say that all of Warren’s voters will go to Sanders. But perhaps just enough will to keep Biden at bay.
Biden will still pick up most of the moderate votes from people who picked a different centrist candidate in the first round, but Sanders can “keep pace” with Biden’s gains if Warren’s votes go to him. It will be more difficult for him to win in this way, but not outright impossible.
The outcome of the Iowa Caucus is still “to be determined.” Anyone who is prognosticating at this point on who will win is making a foolish prediction that’s based mostly on their own hunches than anything else.
Biden clearly has the advantage to win at this point, based solely on how the mechanics of the Iowa Caucus are set up. But his win is not a “sure thing” at this point, either, and as demonstrated above, there is a chance that Sanders can pull off the upset.