Iowa Caucuses in Chaos; Bernie Wins New Hampshire

Democratic officials discuss caucus results in Iowa, February 3.

The much-anticipated Democratic Party Iowa Caucuses took place on February 3, and the big surprise was . . . not who won, but how a vote-reporting fiasco failed to determine a winner. The announcement of complete results on the Democratic side was muddled and delayed for a week, leaving candidates, reporters, and a national TV audience with nothing but questions on election night. In the short run, the Iowa winner basically was denied the attention (“bump” in campaign-speak) that usually accompanies winning Iowa. Because of the delay, campaigns had to move on to New Hampshire. In the long run, it is increasingly likely that the importance of the Iowa Caucuses has been forever diminished. The Iowa vote counting was supposed to be more transparent than in previous years. Instead, an unfortunate effect of the debacle is that accusations of “election shenanigans” may haunt the primary season.

When the Democratic results in Iowa were finally tabulated, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was the winner—sort of. “Mayor Pete” and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont each won about 26 percent of the vote. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts placed third with 18 percent. Former vice president Joe Biden came in a disappointing fourth place, ahead of Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar. The primaries are about winning delegates state by state, toward securing the party nomination at the national convention. The complex balloting in Iowa yielded 14 delegates for Buttigieg, 12 for Sanders, 8 for Warren, 6 for Biden, and 1 for Klobuchar.

On February 11, Sanders edged out a victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, which went off without a hitch. He won about 26 percent to 25 percent for Buttigieg, followed by Klobuchar. Warren and Biden placed a distant fourth and fifth. New Hampshire’s 21 delegates will be divided among the top three finishers: Sanders: 9, Buttigieg: 9, and Klobuchar: 6. In both states, President Trump won the Republican primary easily, as expected.

Has the early voting thinned the field of candidates seeking to be the Democratic Party’s nominee? Sanders has emerged as the favorite to win the nomination, for now. Biden’s finish in both Iowa and New Hampshire was much weaker than he had hoped. However, Biden has led for months in most national polls and in Nevada and South Carolina, where the next primaries will be held. Strong showings by Buttigieg and Klobuchar have given them momentum, but Warren’s campaign is clearly in trouble. Close on the horizon is Super Tuesday (March 3), when 14 states, including “delegate-rich” California and Texas, will vote.

Image credit: © Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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