As the Democrats move closer to the first state to select delegates — Iowa — in their 2020 caucus, a new poll indicates that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead in Iowa, as well as nationally. But front-runner status places Biden in the “cross hairs” of the other 23 Democrats desirous of winning the Democratic presidential nomination and the right to take on the almost-certain Republican nominee, President Donald Trump.
The Des Moines Register-Mediacom-CNN Iowa Poll has Biden in front as the first choice of 24 percent of “likely” caucus-goers, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an avowed democratic socialist who took his honeymoon in the old Soviet Union during the Cold War, at 16 percent. Following Sanders were Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, at 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
Following far behind was Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at seven percent, with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke tied at two percent.
Choosing a party nominee is clearly different from the general election. The turnout is much lower in the various primaries and caucuses than what can be expected in the general election. A political party is much like a brand name, and without that brand name to guide them, many of the lesser-informed voters opt to not participate in the caucuses and primaries, which leaves the decision more in the hands of those who are more intense about politics.
A primary is like a general election, except it is Democratic voters choosing among Democratic candidates, and Republican voters choosing among Republican candidates. New Hampshire will be the nation’s first “primary” state, and Iowa will hold the first caucuses.
The average attendee at a party caucus is even more intense than the average primary voter, because whereas in a primary a citizen casts his vote by secret ballot at a polling place and is done within a few minutes, a caucus requires citizens to state their preference publicly, and spend a good part of an evening in a gymnasium, a church building, a school building, or some other such location, debating issues and candidates.
Because of the nature of a caucus, the attendees tend to be more liberal at Democratic caucus gatherings, and attendees tend to be more conservative at Republican caucus gatherings.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Biden’s lead is more commanding in “national” polls than what one finds in Iowa. Even in national polls — even the best, honest, and most accurate of polls — are only a “snapshot” of public opinion on the day the questions are asked. Attempting to determine, through a poll, the outcome of a caucus to be held several months from now is even more problematic.
While Biden would probably like to say little of substance on the issues, and maintain both his national and Iowa lead, those who are motivated to attend the Democratic caucuses in Iowa are going to be much more concerned about where he stands on various issues. Because of that, Biden has already begun to “flip-flop” on certain hot-button issues such as abortion.
After Biden publicly supported the Hyde Amendment — named for the late pro-life Congressman Henry Hyde — which was passed years ago to ban the use of federal funds to pay for abortions (in most cases), many of the Democrats who are trailing him in the polls used that as an opening to attack him. Warren used the MSNBC town hall to say he was wrong, while Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Harris of California used Twitter to take issue with Biden on the Hyde Amendment question.
Biden — understanding that caucus and primary Democrat voters are more likely to take the more extreme pro-abortion positions — quickly changed his position on the Hyde Amendment, saying on Thursday of last week that he no longer supports it. “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” Biden said.
In Biden’s favor, however, is the perception that he has the best chance to win against Trump next year. Whether that is true, many ardent Democrats might very well choose to support Biden anyway, over someone such as Warren or Sanders, either of whom has a stronger left-wing reputation.
Surprises often happen in the Iowa caucuses. In 2016, Texas Senator Ted Cruz defeated eventual nominee Donald Trump in Iowa, but Trump came back the next week to defeat Cruz in New Hampshire and eventually defeat Cruz for the nomination. In 1980, George H.W. Bush emphasized the Iowa caucuses, and scored an upset victory over Ronald Reagan. Reagan, of course, went on to win both the nomination and the general election that fall over Jimmy Carter.
Perhaps the most noteworthy case was in 1976, when that little-known governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, won a extremely surprising victory in Iowa, propelling him to the nomination and eventually the presidency. While much of the focus is now on Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, and even O’Rourke, one should not discount the possibility that a dark horse candidate could emerge this year, such as Carter in 1976.
Although he was booed at the California Democratic State Convention in San Francisco recently for trying to appear “moderate,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is the candidate who is most in the mold of a Carter. He was one of only 131 elitists invited to attend the highly secretive and globalist Bilderberg meeting last year. If Carter is not enough of an example for you, Bill Clinton, a little-known governor of Arkansas similarly attended a meeting of the group in 1991 (and was elected president the next year), and on the Republican side, Congressman Gerald Ford of Michigan made the meeting in 1964.
Between now and early next year, when the Iowa caucuses are held, look for the Democrats to go after each other, both on issues and in a more personal way, leaving the door open to someone who could emerge as a supposedly “moderate” alternative to Trump.
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