Election 2020

If You Love Confusion, You'll Love the Iowa Caucuses

If You Love Confusion, You'll Love the Iowa Caucuses
Democratic presidential candidates from left, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer stand on stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

In their mania to make things “fair” and “transparent,” the Democratic National Committee will give not one, not two, but three sets of results for the Iowa Caucuses coming up on February 3.

Why don’t they just hand out a participation trophy to each candidate?

The reason Democrats are going to confuse everyone on caucus night is that there are several stages to deciding delegates to the Iowa state Democratic convention next summer. Caucus goers will fill out a card when they first walk in declaring their choice for president. That set of results — known forever after as the “First Alignment” — will be posted along with the “Final Alignment” results as well as the number of delegates to the state convention each candidate receives.

AP says they will publish all three results, but declare a winner based on the number of state delegates. Go figure.

“Adding additional numbers is going to make it more confusing for news organizations and people watching the caucuses,” said Derek Eadon, who worked as Julián Castro’s deputy campaign manager, was a top Iowa aide to Barack Obama in 2008 and is now supporting Sanders. “People are going to want to know who won, and I don’t know if there’s consensus on one number that people will use to declare that.”

But won’t candidates claim victory if they end up winning the “First Alignment” but not win the most delegates?

“This is a contest for delegates,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said. “Campaigns will highlight whatever number is the most advantageous for them. But in the end, what matters is the delegates that come out of Iowa to the national convention, and (state delegates) will remain the best indicator of that.”

David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, echoed that.

“The only way to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee is by winning a majority of national convention delegates,” he said. “We strongly encourage anyone who wants to understand who is winning the race for the nomination to pay attention to those results.”

The question is whether candidates will follow their lead.

I can’t wait to hear the “did better than expected” claims from half the minor candidates. It’s going to be a blast.

For lower-tier candidates such as Tom Steyer or Andrew Yang, the initial vote numbers could be crucial. If they don’t hit the 15% support needed to win any delegates but still turn out more individual caucus-goers than expected, for instance, they could point to their initial support as evidence they remain competitive in the primary.

A candidate who’s losing in the overall delegate count may try to make an electability case by highlighting his or her geographic strength, pointing perhaps to his or her raw support during the first or final alignment in counties that went from Obama to Donald Trump in 2016. A number of operatives suggested Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar or Buttigieg may frame the caucus results in this way.

How can you take a political party seriously when they put on clown car displays like this? In their eagerness to show “inclusion” and not hurt anyone’s feelings, they’ve created chaos. The Democrats would deserve it if they ended up with three different winners. They very well might. Latest polls show a 4-way race with Biden ahead. But the victor in Iowa won’t depend on polls but on who is able to motivate the most supporters to leave the comfort of their nice, warm, home and venture out into an Iowa winter to attend a 3-hour snooze-a-thon.