Super Tuesday: A reversal of fortune

Dan Guild reflects on the weekend’s two game-changing events, which have no precedent in Democratic presidential campaigns. -promoted by Laura Belin

“Events dear boy, events” – attributed to to British Prime Minister Harold McMillan, though whether he said it is disputed.

I have spent a good amount of time studying primary polling.  The single most important lesson I have learned is that they are subject to sudden change. It is why I love the McMillan quote – it captures how unpredictable events can rapidly change the political calculus. 

This weekend we saw two race-changing events in 24 hours: Joe Biden’s decisive win in South Carolina and the sudden departure of Pete Buttigieg, the winner of the Iowa caucuses (depending on how you measure the results). These two events in combination are impossible to model. The Iowa winner has never withdrawn this early.  A front-runner has never performed so badly as Biden has before South Carolina and then recovered.

Having said that, I think history offers two parallels:

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Iowa Democrats should not certify inaccurate caucus results

UPDATE: The State Central Committee voted 26 to 14 on February 29 to certify results with no further corrections. This post discusses the debate and vote over certifying in depth.

The Iowa Democratic Party has updated official results from the February 3 caucuses again, following a recount of 23 precincts specified by the Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg campaigns. The recount didn’t change the projected allocation of Iowa’s national delegates: fourteen for Buttigieg, twelve for Sanders, eight for Elizabeth Warren, six for Joe Biden, and one for Amy Klobuchar.

Revised delegate allocations in nineteen precincts left Buttigieg “ahead” of Sanders by 562.954 state delegate equivalents to 562.021, a small fraction of 1 percent of all delegates. It would be more meaningful to say Sanders and Buttigieg in effect tied on the delegate count, while Sanders had the largest number of supporters attending precinct caucuses.

Unfortunately, the recount didn’t address all the inaccuracies in the official results. Some of the errors scattered around the state affected neither Buttigieg nor Sanders. The Iowa Democratic Party has taken no steps to correct those mistakes, nor has it responded to Bleeding Heartland’s repeated questions about them.

Meanwhile, Zach Montellaro and Holly Otterbein reported for Politico on February 27 that the Sanders campaign will object to the revisions, on the grounds that Buttigieg should not have been able to ask for recounts of precincts where he was shortchanged.

Someone in this party needs to insist on accuracy for its own sake. Before some sixty members of the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee certify the caucus results at their February 29 meeting, they should insist on a broader review of the problems.

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Yes, Bernie Sanders can be stopped. But...

Dan Guild spins some scenarios for the Democratic primaries. -promoted by Laura Belin

Mathematically, there is a way to stop Bernie Sanders, but it won’t be easy.

Four years ago I wrote these lines in a post about the Republican presidential race:

In politics we often talk of the narrative. The narrative is not about delegate math, it is about momentum. It asks who is winning and why. It is unforgiving: you either win or you lose. It is difficult to lose and maintain any semblance of energy in a campaign (something seen in Rubio’s implosion) but it also means no more money for future primaries.

In any primary fight, there are times when these two forces are at odds. Such is the case now.

This is precisely the state of the race for the Democratic nomination. It is reasonably easy to create scenarios where Sanders does not get close to a majority of delegates. The problem is primaries are a dynamic process. The difference between winning and losing is stark. Losing drives candidates from the race or makes them irrelevant.

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Where things stand in Iowa's third Congressional district

Part of a series catching up on Iowa’s 2020 races for federal offices. Click here for the latest on IA-01 and here for IA-02.

Plenty of successful Iowa politicians have lost their first campaign as a challenger, then defeated the same incumbent two years later. (Tom Harkin and Berkley Bedell are two of the most famous examples.) Rematches occur in a different political context. The challenger has higher name recognition, and the prevailing national atmosphere may favor the party out of power.

In Iowa’s third Congressional district, another kind of rematch is taking shape. U.S. Representative Cindy Axne, who took down an incumbent on her first attempt, will face David Young, who won two U.S. House races before losing to Axne in a difficult year for Republicans nationally.

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Iowa House district 71 preview: Sue Cahill vs. Tony Reed

Both major parties have declared candidates in what could become a competitive race for an open Iowa House seat.

Marshalltown City Council member Sue Cahill announced on February 20 that she will run for House district 71, with the support of retiring Representative Mark Smith. Tony Reed launched his campaign for the Republican nomination earlier this month.

This seat would at best be on the second tier of Republican pickup opportunities in lower chamber, where the GOP now has a 53-47 majority. But it’s a must-hold for Democrats and a campaign worth watching.

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Oy, the debate

Ira Lacher reflects on the February 19 six-candidate clash in Las Vegas, which drew the largest television audience yet for a Democratic debate this cycle. -promoted by Laura Belin

“Welcome to the NFL, kid.” — The sarcastic greeting veteran players give to highly touted rookies who are roughed up and even injured in their first pro football contests.

“Welcome to the party, man.” — The sarcastic greeting Joe Biden gave to Mike Bloomberg as they exited the stage after Wednesday’s debate.

Based on Wednesday’s pro wrestling show in Las Vegas, the former New York City mayor is being compared to Ishtar. The 1987 film cost a then-unheard of $40 million and was pilloried as one of the worst disasters in movie history.

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