Feb 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Iowa debacle haunts 2020 Democrats

Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire yesterday. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg sees a moment to overtake Joe Biden with an electability message after the scrambled Iowa results left some top Biden supporters distraught.

If the partial results released yesterday by the Iowa Democratic Party had been trumpeted Monday night instead of being delayed by the app snafu, Buttigieg would have been a national sensation.

  • Instead, Buttigieg's kinda-victory declaration before results were out — which his rivals' surrogates criticized as presumptuous and shady — was drowned out by the macro story of the Democrats' embarrassing disaster.

By the numbers: Iowa Democrats released results from 71% of precincts, showing Buttigieg with the highest percentage of delegates thus far at 26.8%.

  • That was followed by Bernie Sanders at 25.2%, Elizabeth Warren at 18.4% and Biden at 15.5%.
  • Sanders led the popular vote with 31,428 votes, followed by Buttigieg at 27,515, Warren at 24,175 and Biden at 18,902.
  • AP said the results weren't enough to call a winner.

The big picture: Sanders did well in Iowa and is best-positioned to win New Hampshire.

  • The bigger question is what happens to the other candidates, including the under-performing Biden.
  • Biden now needs to convince donors to float him despite the disappointing showing in Iowa.
  • If Buttigieg's lead holds through the final tally, will he get the meaningful benefits in fundraising, media and voting momentum that an Iowa winner could expect?

Between the lines: The Democratic field has spent stunningly little time campaigning in New Hampshire.

  • Some candidates figured it was a waste of time to campaign because Sanders and Warren appeared so strong there.
  • The whiteness of the state doesn't help Biden. Nor does the fact that Biden redirected planned advertising from New Hampshire into Iowa, where he camped out.

What to watch: The ABC News debate in Manchester on Friday night could change the dynamics heading into next Tuesday's vote.

  • Think back to 2016's Republican primary debate in New Hampshire when Chris Christie destroyed Marco Rubio's once-promising campaign with a brutal takedown. 

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