Okay, political junkies, it’s time. A campaign season that already seems to be endless finally gets its official start today with the Iowa caucuses. As is fitting for a year with so much uncertainty, the Iowa race is too close to call.
If you’ve followed the polling, you know how topsy-turvy the Iowa race has been over the past few months. Elizabeth Warren led throughout the early fall and then Pete Buttigieg surged in November. As the new year dawned, Bernie Sanders was ascendant but then Joe Biden, who seemed to have written off Iowa months ago, was suddenly thrust back to the top of the polls.
The polling situation is made all the more difficult by the absence of the Des Moines Register poll that is normally considered the gold standard in the state. The paper decided not to release the poll results after reports that operators at the call center had adjusted the font size on their list of questions. The change caused Pete Buttigieg to be inadvertently dropped from the list of options and skewed the poll results.
Other recent polling alternated between favoring Biden and Sanders. Currently, the polling averages of both Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight show an edge for Sanders, by four points and one point respectively, but neither average reflects the new CBS poll that was released this morning.
The plot thickens if we throw the CBS poll into the mix because it shows Biden and Sanders tied at 25 percent. The CBS “Battleground Tracker” is actually more than a poll. It’s a model that blends multiple polls and considers the stated intentions of more than 35,000 likely voters.
Beyond the top two candidates, CBS found Pete Buttigieg in a close third at 23 percent and Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent. Amy Klobuchar, who you may remember was near the 15-percent threshold for earning delegates in a recent Emerson survey, is now polling at five percent. All other candidates were below five percent.
Under the current polling, Biden and Sanders can be expected to win an almost even number of delegates, regardless of who the top finisher is. Buttigieg and Warren are also likely to earn Iowa delegates.
The nature of caucuses, which require much more effort than simply casting a ballot in a primary, would normally favor Sanders since the Vermont senator inspires a zealous following among his Bernie Bro backers. However, the current state of alarm in the Democratic Party over a possible Sanders candidacy may mobilize establishment Democrats to spend the time to caucus for Joe Biden.
As I’ve said before, Sanders may well win Iowa and will almost certainly win New Hampshire, but the long term race still seems to favor Biden. Nevertheless, Bernie is peaking at the right time to give the former vice president a run for his money.