Updated Dec 1, 2019

Democrats' 2020 chaos theory

Joe Biden started an eight-day bus tour yesterday in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Democrats say a very realistic scenario now calls for Pete Buttigieg to win Iowa, Elizabeth Warren to win New Hampshire, Joe Biden to win South Carolina and Bernie Sanders to win Nevada.

Why it matters: With Buttigieg's rise in Iowa and Warren's deflation, Democrats' 2020 race has no real front-runner as the big field begins the two-month holiday sprint to the caucuses on Feb. 3, 64 days from now.

The intrigue: Mike Bloomberg, who's bypassing the early states, thinks a split decision opens a path for him to make a big statement on Super Tuesday (March 3), which includes California.

  • But other candidates contend the former mayor will have a standing start at a time when another candidate or two will have excitement and momentum coming out of the early states.
  • That's part of the reason Bloomberg's candidacy is so fascinating: No one has tried a self-funded race with anything like the spending Bloomberg has already unleashed.

Iowa has a history of abrupt surprises. Matt Bennett of Third Way, the center-left think tank, shared a fascinating tally showing that the leader in December polls wins contested caucuses less than half the time.

  • Of the last 10 contested Democratic contests in Iowa, the candidate who was in first place in December polling won just three times (Walter Mondale in 1984, Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016).
  • In 2004, John Kerry won Iowa after being sixth in December polling, behind leader Howard Dean. [Corrected]
  • Once, the candidate who was in 10th place in December polling won the caucuses. That was former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, in 1976.
  • The tally goes back to 1972, when the modern era of candidate selection began. It omits the re-election campaigns of Presidents Clinton and Obama, who were unopposed for the nomination.

The bottom line: If the race plays through along these lines, the nominee will be chosen in July — at the convention in Milwaukee. That is Bloomberg’s play.

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Mike Bloomberg officially announces presidential run

Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Billionaire and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg officially announced on Sunday that he's running for president as a Democrat.

"I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America. We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage. The stakes could not be higher. We must win this election. And we must begin rebuilding America. I believe my unique set of experiences in business, government, and philanthropy will enable me to win and lead."
— Mike Bloomberg
Go deeperArrowNov 24, 2019

Behind Pete Buttigieg's Iowa rise

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks to voters during a campaign rally this month in Waverly, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Rather than riding a swell of media attention or a viral moment, Pete Buttigieg has ascended to the top of Iowa's Democratic presidential primary polling by channeling a substantial fundraising haul into TV ads and a robust presence inside the state.

Why it matters: With $2.3m spent so far on Iowa TV ads, more than 100 staff on the ground and 20 field offices, Buttigieg's investment reflects his campaign's bet that Iowa's Feb. 3 caucus is key to his chances as an underdog candidate from the Midwest.

Go deeperArrowNov 20, 2019

Biden takes aim at Trump as he launches Iowa tour

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Saturday. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took aim at President Trump and the impact of his tariffs on Iowa farmers, as he launched an eight-day "No Malarkey" barnstorm bus tour of the state Saturday.

We can overcome four years of Donald Trump, but eight years will literally, literally begin to change the character of this nation, and we cannot let that happen."
Go deeperArrowDec 1, 2019