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How Bernie Sanders wins the Iowa caucuses

Bernie Sanders addresses an enthusiastic crowd at Iowa State University
Photo via Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

In 2016, Bernie Sanders’s nail biting loss in the Iowa caucuses nonetheless showed America he was a serious candidate for the presidency.

This time round, with his status as the progressive flag bearer entrenched, there’s even more on the line.

The good news is, Sanders is now the narrow front runner; an average of the last 2 weeks worth of polls puts Sanders on 24 percent, with other main contenders Joe Biden on 21 percent, Pete Buttigieg on 17 percent and Elizabeth Warren on 15 percent. And he’s trending upwards on the latest polls within that dataset, polling as high as 30 percent in an Emerson Poll released earlier in the week.

Here are some things to look out for if Sanders is to get over the line in Iowa:

  • Sanders support is highest amongst younger voters, so turn out in the cities and towns will be key. Keep an eye on places like Johnson County, home of the University of Iowa, where Sanders won 59.5 percent of the vote last time
  • Elizabeth Warren’s vote has continued to soften, and if she doesn’t make the 15 percent viability threshold in many precincts a lot of her votes will flow to Sanders
  • Of the also rans, Amy Klobuchar is sitting at around 9 percent; based on polls if she doesn’t make viability most of her voters will go to Biden and Buttigieg
  • Some analysis suggests Biden voters are less likely to turn out to caucus, the weather could be all important in determining Sanders’ chances. So far the forecast for Monday in Des Moines is for a cloudy but cold 34

Final analysis

This is in many ways the single most important standalone contest of the race, as the result will set the tone for the remainder of the primaries. With such a tight field the number of delegates won by each leading candidate could be close, so in many ways the victory itself could be more important. The good news is Sanders has peaked at the right time, and our current prediction is Bernie Sanders as the narrow winner of the Iowa caucus.

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