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Buttigieg Gets A Leg Up In Iowa

The South Bend mayor is benefiting from many factors, including help from Mark Zuckerberg.

Recent polling of the Democratic primary in Iowa shows that the state is up for grabs and the most recent candidate to surge is… Pete Buttigieg? According to a new poll, Buttigieg has jumped to third place, surpassing Bernie Sanders.

The USA Today/Suffolk poll of 500 likely Democratic caucus-goers showed Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren in a statistical tie at 18 and 17 percent respectively, but the big surprise was a strong showing from the South Bend mayor. Buttigieg polled at 13 percent in the survey while Bernie Sanders dropped to nine percent.

Looking at the big picture, the Real Clear Politics average does show a long, show rise in Iowa polling for Buttigieg. The upward trend started in early September and coincides with drops for both Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders. The average of polls currently shows statistical ties for both Biden and Warren at 21 percent and Buttigieg and Sanders at 14 percent.

Buttigieg is likely benefitting from multiple factors in the race. Both Biden and Warren have given weak debate performances while Bernie Sanders has been saddled with health concerns after a recent heart attack. Kamala Harris, once considered a strong contender, has plummeted in the polls since the early debates.

The mayor has also made some important friends. Bloomberg reported that Buttigieg was advised by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on hiring certain campaign officials. Buttigieg and Zuckerberg both attended Harvard where their tenures overlapped and they shared mutual friends. Buttigieg was one of the first 300 users of Facebook. While Zuckerberg has not endorsed Buttigieg, the Facebook founder is an important connection.

The Iowa caucuses are tentatively scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020, only about four months away. Unlike the primaries that most states hold, the caucuses require candidate supporters to attend local caucus meetings to vote for their candidate. The process is a bigger commitment than just voting so excitement over a candidate can be a game-changing factor.

The caucuses are not winner-take-all but candidates do have to meet a threshold, typically 15 percent, at caucus sites to be considered viable. If a candidate is not viable, their supporters can switch to a different candidate and still participate. Under this system, it is very possible that Buttigieg could win delegates in Iowa if his surge continues.

Nationally, however, Buttigieg has not caught on. He has remained at about five percent in the Real Clear Politics national average throughout the summer. However, if either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren falters (or both), Pete Buttigieg seems to be positioned to be the next candidate to catch the wave of Democratic dissatisfaction with the frontrunners.   

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