At the moment, the battle for the Iowa caucuses appears to be a four-way fight between Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren. Anything can happen in the Iowa Caucuses, for sure, but chances are if you’re a betting person, you’re betting on one of them. Joe Biden’s original strategy seemed to exclude Iowa, where he wasn’t polling well. Many thought this was foolish, but, since he started gaining in the polls, Biden has become far more aggressive in trying to win there, after having once written it off.
As the Iowa caucuses approach, the push to win this ever-so-important election test has woken up something fierce in the contenders for the nomination. Whereas for much of this election, attacking each other has been somewhat taboo in favor of unified attacks on Donald Trump, suddenly, the Democrat contenders have woken up to the fact that they are actually competing against each other and that Iowa could propel either one of them to the nomination. John Kerry’s surprise win in Iowa in 2004 gave him the momentum he needed to become his party’s nominee after it had seemed like Howard Dean was the runaway favorite to win.
While the 2020 Democrats have taken their swipes at each other during debates, truly substantive attacks have been missing. Joe Biden, the longtime frontrunner, has generally had an easy time with his opponents, who have refused to use his inappropriate behavior with women or his Ukraine conflicts of interest against him. “If you come after Joe Biden you’re going to have to deal with me,” Senator Cory Booker said during the October debate regarding the Ukraine issue. The message was loud and clear, Biden wasn’t gonna take any heat from his primary opponents.
Now, Cory Booker has suspended his campaign, and Joe Biden has a shot at winning Iowa.
Had Democrats treated Biden like a primary opponent and not a fait accompli for the Democratic nomination, the breaks could have been put on Biden’s campaign months ago. It’s only now that Democrats are really turning the heat up on Biden and each other, after months of being afraid to realize that we’re still in a primary.
Pete Buttigieg, for example, has emerged as a contender in Iowa and has actually hit Biden over his Ukraine conflicts of interest, saying he “would not have wanted to see” his son serving on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company at the same time he was supposed to be leading anti-corruption efforts there. He told the Associated Press that as president, his administration will “do everything we can to prevent even the appearance of a conflict.”
Bernie Sanders, who recently has come out on top in Iowa polling, has increased his attacks on Joe Biden. “Joe Biden voted and helped lead the effort for the war in Iraq, the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper earlier this month. Elizabeth Warren has also made indirect attacks on Biden. Bernie and Warren have also been attacking each other.
But will it be too little too late? If Joe Biden doesn’t win Iowa, I think we’re headed to a brokered convention. But if he wins, it will likely make subsequent states far more easy for him to win. He’s been the frontrunner in national polling, but has, for some time, been struggling in the early-voting states that have a history of clearing a path to the nomination. Joe Biden stands to gain the most from a win in Iowa, and his opponents didn’t realize until the last minute, and it might just result in Biden running away with it all and leaving them behind.
If any of Biden’s opponents care about winning the nomination, or at the very least staying alive until the convention, they’ll keep hitting Joe Biden hard until the caucuses, otherwise, they’ll all be begging to be his running mate.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis