Feb 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How Trump will use Iowa

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

President Trump's style of politics thrives when chaos destabilizes institutions, and that's exactly what's happening now.

Why it matters: Trump's campaign is already arguing that Democrats can’t be trusted to lead if they can’t even get a couple hundred thousand counts done right, and none of the Democratic candidates campaigning today are boasting of an Iowa win.

  • And the Trump campaign's attacks on health care — arguing Iowa proves Democrats can't be trusted to run big new programs like Medicare for All — are getting traction with conservatives. “No, but seriously, let us run your healthcare,” tweeted Townhall.com political editor Guy Benson.

There are plenty of reasons to question whether caucuses make sense and whether Iowa should remain the first contest, from the state's demographics to how hard it is for people who work at night or have kids or aging parents to spend hours on a weeknight picking candidates.

The problems were magnified this year, first when the Des Moines Register scrapped its final poll because of concerns over methodology, and then when last night's technical problems prevented a release of the results.

  • These issues can be weaponized to underscore questions about the reliability of the press and polls, the caucuses themselves, and, by extension, elections.
“Democrats are stewing in a caucus mess of their own creation with the sloppiest train wreck in history. It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process."
— Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 campaign manager

Iowa's problems also mask real, underlying concerns:

  • Its status as a swing state is increasingly debatable. Trump won by 9+ points in 2016, the GOP controls the state government, and demographics make competing for its six electoral votes a less obvious priority than some bigger, more diverse states.
  • Meanwhile, many of the candidates, including Joe Biden, have never been poised to perform well in Iowa.

To be sure, the new app and the phone system and the plan to release three sets of data were not ready for prime time. But they were instituting these changes in a good faith effort to modernize, and in no small part because of Bernie Sanders and his backers’ calls to change the old process.

The bottom line: The errors robbed Sanders and possibly Pete Buttigieg of a victory speech, kept Democrats from getting clarity on the viability of Biden and Buttigieg, and opened up a new avenue of attack for a president that thrives on chaos.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,931,112 — Total deaths: 357,929 — Total recoveries — 2,388,172Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,711,313 — Total deaths: 101,129 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

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President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

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