Another Iowa surprise?

Dan Guild‘s final thoughts on the presidential race in Iowa, along with how tonight’s results could affect national and New Hampshire polling. -promoted by Laura Belin

My brief take on the current state of the race: I think the key will be Pete Buttigieg.

I came to Iowa a skeptic, but I have found his support is real.  If he is able to get 20 percent, he splits the moderate vote and Bernie Sanders’ margin may be larger than people see coming.  If Buttigieg falls below 15 percent, Joe Biden will likely benefit in reallocation and may beat Sanders.

Other questions and observations this morning:

  • Which race will the media report?  This is the first cycle that the Democrats will be releasing a raw vote (Republicans always have).  It is very possible the results will be different. In speaking with some in media since arriving in Des Moines a few days ago, I don’t think they know. Harry Enten from CNN sent me some exit poll data. Note that John Edwards benefited greatly from re-allocation in both 2004 and 2008.  In 2008, Hillary Clinton actually beat Edwards in the popular vote (how many Iowans preferred her on the first alignment), but lost to him because of re-allocation.  Which result would have been reported, had that been known?
  • One-third of Iowans may change their minds, according to Emerson’s last survey.  This is not as high as in the 2004 Democratic caucuses or the 2012 GOP caucuses.  It is higher than the 2008 caucuses, when Barack Obama’s margin was not generally anticipated. The table below shows when people decided:
  • Since the start of January, the race has been stable.  Pollsters disagree with each other, but when you compare the same pollster’s results against each other, they don’t show much change. There have been four lead changes since June: Biden, then Elizabeth Warren in October, Buttigieg in November, and Sanders in January. I keep saying to expect a surprise – but it hasn’t happened yet.
  • Almost ALL polling agrees Sanders is over 20 percent and is likely to be viable in most places.
  • Will the young show up, and where? Sanders is dependent on a big turnout of those under 45. Obama’s margin in 2008 was almost entirely built on those under 40.
  • Biden could get anywhere from 25 to 15 percent.  His number is the most volatile. He could win and take a huge step towards the nomination, or finish fourth and be headed for near-certain defeat in NH.
  • Buttigieg and Warren are both near 15 percent, the threshold for viability.   Each is over 20 in one late poll (Warren in the Civiqs poll, Buttigieg in CBS/YouGov).  Warren’s voters are overwhelmingly likely to go to Sanders.  Buttigieg’s are more evenly split. Where the Warren and Buttigieg vote goes will be decisive.
  • Klobuchar did not make it. Only 1 poll shows her above 15 percent, and even that would not likely be enough for her to be viable going forward.  But where Klobuchar’s votes go (almost certainly to Biden or Buttigieg) will matter a great deal.
  • Iowa matters very much. These are the results from my model that project New Hampshire and national polling after Iowa.  If Sanders wins tonight, he will lead nationally; Biden’s numbers are not good enough to survive a loss.  If Biden wins, he will lead by 13 nationally, but still trail in New Hampshire.  If Warren or Buttigieg win, we will have a three-way race going forward.
  • The state of the race: keep your eye on the Warren/Sanders versus Biden/Buttigieg/Klobuchar number.  My hunch is that the latter is bigger than the former, and may help the leader among Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar significantly in re-allocation.

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