Even with so many candidates left in the Democratic Presidential Caucus, the leaderboard already seems to be set. But the Democratic caucus calls for candidates to have a certain amount of support for them to be viable, so the question is, where will those who support the “non-viable” candidates go?
Dr. Andrew Green, Political Science Chair at Central College, says most of the candidates who may not be viable (low-polling prior to the caucus) are the ones that are more mainstream, center-left. He believes it is likely that Bernie Sanders will win the first alignment in most precincts, thus making realignment more critical. Sanders virtually tied Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Iowa Caucus.
A few days prior to the caucus, one can look back at the campaign thus far and be left with questions. For instance, John Delaney has been in the race the longest and spent the most time in Iowa. However, he has not seemed to gain traction. Green believes this is because those with more name recognition, such as Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, have taken the wind out of Delaney’s sails.
Several other candidates, many of whom have already pulled out of the race, are in the same situation. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Julian Castro all tried to catch on in Iowa, but it did not work out. Green is unsure why Harris did not make it to the caucus, as she had a strong ground operation and was here often.
The Democrats, much like Republicans in the past, are undergoing an ideological debate. The current presidential candidates have called for government-funded health care for illegal aliens, but there are other factors that separate their levels of liberalism. Green sees different factions of the party based upon region and will support different candidates on different issues.
For instance, if urban America drives the agenda, the nominee will be different than if rural America does. Regardless of these differences, Democrats will still have to win some “purple” states (those with a good mix of conservative and liberal voters) if they want to control the Senate and win the Presidency. One of the first steps of this is having a message that resonates with rural Iowa. There are not enough votes in Des Moines, the Quad Cities, Ames, Cedar Rapids and other urban areas to offset the significant margins statewide Republican candidates such as Kim Reynolds and Donald Trump won by. Green does not believe Democrats have lost rural Iowa, but it will not be easy for them to take the state.
The common understanding is that there are three tickets out of Iowa for presidential candidates. In 2020, Green believes there will be four. He is confident that Sanders, Biden and Warren will take three and that Pete Buttigeig may be viable after the first alignment as well. Green thinks all four of them can make an argument for how they can move on.
Any candidate that is able to reach 13 or 14 percent (viability requires 15 percent) may be able to move on, but a message change may be necessary.
One candidate with strong name recognition and vast personal wealth is Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg is not only skipping Iowa, but other early states including New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. He is buying ads in other states whose airwaves are not cluttered with candidate ads.
On Super Tuesday, if Bloomberg prevails, Green believes it will say a lot about the power of money in elections. If Bloomberg succeeds without retail politicking like those in Iowa have been, it is likely to hurt not only the Iowa Caucus but the other early states as well. Bloomberg’s best case scenario to win on Super Tuesday is if each of the first four states has a different winner.
Looking ahead to the General Election, likely Republican nominee President Donald Trump may have a bigger battle in 2020 than in 2016. He was aided by the fact so many Democrats and Republicans thought so little of Hillary Clinton. But, his key wins were Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. A shift may occur if the Democrats nominate someone those states can support.
The key for either side is to find those voters who went from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Where will they go? Do they like what they have seen from Trump? If these people are unsatisfied with the work Trump has done, it could lead to them seeking another agent of change in 2020.