Johnson: Looking at the effects of a broken Iowa Caucus


Caitlin Yamada/ Iowa State Daily

Columnist Zachary Johnson argues Bernie Sanders will win in the upcoming New Hampshire primary.

Zachary Johnson

Now that the results of the Iowa caucuses have finally been released in an official capacity, we can almost look back on who actually benefited the most from the wild contest.

Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay candidate for president to win a state in a primary race when the Iowa caucus officially released the counts for the national delegate numbers on Sunday. This has given him quite the surge in polls for the upcoming New Hampshire primary where his numbers show he is up three to four points, which seem to have largely been taken from Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

Despite this, however, it seems as though Bernie Sanders will be the winner of the first primary in the Granite State given the consensus around different pollsters that he will be victorious in New Hampshire while Mayor Pete rolls up with a close second place.

Where does this leave the field?

I don’t think that Buttigieg’s success in two very white states is going to change much about his support from black voters, and given Biden and Sanders’ dominance in that demographic, there doesn’t seem to be much room in that regard.

This is a new phenomenon that was not present for Sanders in the 2016 primary where black voters overwhelmingly sided with his opponent Hillary Clinton. He was walloped in 2016 by over 40 points and is now, according to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast, a favorite in the state (it should be noted that I think there should be vastly more polling done in the state).

The results have been a clear loss for former Vice President Joe Biden who touted in last Friday’s debate that he doesn’t expect to do well in New Hampshire (Nate Silver and others agree). While this is certainly an interesting way to react to getting fourth place as a “frontrunner,” it is not helping his prospects going forward.

It is my theory that it is overall good for the Sanders camp to have had this outcome (despite the disdain that they have had for the process on Twitter). It allows them to continue on with their underdog mentality going into the back half of the first four states (I don’t think their win in New Hampshire will change all that much, regarding the narrative) and will bring them the vindication of, in all likelihood, beating Buttigieg in the upcoming primaries where Pete is not polling well at all. These first votes are all about narratives, and after Pete gets third or fourth in both Nevada and South Carolina, it will be clear that Iowa was a fluke for the Buttigieg campaign.