The Morning Jolt

Elections

The 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus Preemptive Spin Scorecard

From left: Activist Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar on stage for the Democratic primary debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 14, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Today’s Morning Jolt is sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Figure out who you’re pulling for in the Democratic primary — if none, just read all the way down — and then see where your preferred candidate finishes, and voila — your victory or defeat spin for tonight is ready to go.

If you are a fan of Joe Biden, and . . .

Joe Biden finishes first: “Everyone has been writing this campaign’s obituary since last spring, and all Biden does is lead the pack. All cycle long, this campaign has been mis-covered by woke left twentysomething correspondents who have no sense of history and who are wildly out of touch with real-life Democrats outside of the cities. Joe Biden connects with these people and because of that connection, he’s in the driver’s seat. Biden didn’t win the primary tonight, but he’s in good shape for the next three early states. For all the hullaballoo of the past year, this thing might be effectively over by Super Tuesday.”

Joe Biden finishes second or third: “This is fine, and I don’t mean in the dog-in-a-burning-house kind of way. Iowa is an odd state because so many candidates commit so much time to retail campaigning, and that kind of a campaign hits a wall on Super Tuesday, because you can’t shake hands in diners in ten states simultaneously. We did pretty good here, and we’re going to do pretty good in all of the remaining early states, and then by Super Tuesday, this will be a two-person race, probably our guy against Sanders. A lot of Democrats are terrified Sanders can’t win. We’re built for the long haul.”

Joe Biden finishes fourth: The above, but louder. “This is a bit of a disappointment, but no reason to panic. The difference between first place and fourth place in Iowa is about six delegates. This is a race to hit 1,990 delegates. Pretty soon Buttigieg and Klobuchar’s voters will realize their candidates are not going the distance, and they’re not going to jump on the Bernie or Warren bandwagons. We’re going to consolidate the non-socialist Democrats in the coming contests, and we’ll be fine.”

If you are a fan of Bernie Sanders, and . . .

Bernie Sanders finishes first: “This is an earthquake. The party establishment that wouldn’t let him win last time couldn’t stop him from winning this time. Don’t let anybody else downplay the importance of Iowa — everybody wants to win Iowa. This campaign has the most energized and dedicated grassroots, Bernie’s appeal is much broader than the establishment wants to admit, and this campaign has the momentum. On to New Hampshire, which should be nothing worse than a second-place finish for him. A lot of people thought our man wasn’t a serious contender this time around. Lots of people wrote him off after the heart attack. Everyone completely misunderstood how much the party had changed in four years. Bernie Sanders didn’t change; the Democratic party changed, and now he’s in the perfect position to lead a party that is no longer afraid of being called socialist.”

Bernie Sanders finishes second or third: “It would have been nice to win, but this is okay. Maybe Sanders being away from Iowa for the past few weeks held us back some. For once the conventional wisdom is right, this is a two-man race, and Joe Biden is very shaky frontrunner — maybe a “frontrunner in name only.” We’re coming out of Iowa only a handful of delegates back from the leader, and well-suited to go the distance.”

Bernie Sanders finishes fourth: “This is a surprise, and disappointing, but ultimately an minimally consequential setback. New Hampshire is his state; last time around, he crushed Hillary Clinton there, 60 percent to 40 percent. Any other campaign taking a hit such as this would crumble; Sanders just keeps chugging along . . .”

If you are a fan of Pete Buttigieg, and . . .

Pete Buttigieg finishes first: “By every measure, this shouldn’t have happened. Buttigieg is too young, he’s too unknown, some voters might not be comfortable with a gay nominee. He out-organized, out-hustled, and out-ran candidates who have done this before. Tonight’s results demonstrate that the Democratic party is clearly ready for a fresh face and a new voice to take on Trump. If Biden and Sanders and Warren are faltering this early — hey, guys, it doesn’t get any easier from here on out. We’re going to look back on this night the way we look back on Obama winning Iowa in 2008 and showing everyone that it wasn’t a crazy dream.”

Pete Buttigieg finishes second or third: “A lot of people are going to say a mayor from Indiana really should have won Iowa, but this campaign was up against three well-established big names. Yes, a win would have been nice and blown up the “Biden vs. Bernie” narrative that is far too premature. But this is still an extremely well-funded campaign that’s running competitively in New Hampshire. We’re running behind Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. You better believe Democrats are going to have second thoughts before they formally hand the nomination to either one of them.”

Pete Buttigieg finishes fourth: “Ow. Okay, this stings a little. As the candidate said, “we need to have a strong finish” and clearly we didn’t. But it would be premature to write him off. Buttigieg is still the “wine track” candidate and Iowa was a “beer track” contest. New Hampshire will be better. A bunch of the Super Tuesday states will be better. This is a setback, but not a derailment.”

If you are a fan of Elizabeth Warren, and . . .

Elizabeth Warren finishes first: “To hell with all the polling, most of which had her fourth out of the top four. Iowans famously decide late, and this year, they looked at all the candidates and realized all of the other candidates represented risks in a general election that they just weren’t going to take. Democrats want an experienced fighter who will stand up for women and who won’t shrink in the face of a bully, and they found the candidate who fits those requirements. The other candidates aren’t bad guys, they just came up short. Let’s not forget the Des Moines Register endorsement, and the New York Times endorsement. People scoff about ‘the media,’ but having large swathes of the media believe that you’re the best qualified and have the best ideas is like having the wind at your back. The chronic underestimation of Warren should stop now.”

Elizabeth Warren finishes second or third: “Look who’s got some momentum! Everyone gave us up for dead. Yes, a win would have been nice, but every finish such as this keeps us fighting for another week. She closed strong. Democrats aren’t certain yet, and she can be in the conversation for a long time.”

Elizabeth Warren finishes fourth: “Look, despite leading Iowa in the autumn, this state was never the best fit for her. New Hampshire is better.”

If you are a fan of Amy Klobuchar, and . . .

Amy Klobuchar gets above 15 percent and some delegates: “Look, all four of other big-name candidates have glaring flaws and leave some corner of the party deeply dissatisfied. Klobuchar may not set the world on fire, but she’s the Goldilocks candidate — not too left, not too centrist, not too old, not too young. All we need to do is survive from week to week, and eventually Democrats will realize the need to unite, and Klobuchar is the candidate best positioned to unite the party.”

Amy Klobuchar gets below 15 percent and no delegates: “Tonight is frustrating, but polling showed a surge towards the end. It makes no sense to quit now, after the Manchester Union Leader endorsed her. Even if her numbers never improve from here, if she won’t be the king, so to speak, she could end up being king-maker. She will be the one lower-tier candidate whose endorsement matters — her 4 or 5 percent in the remaining states could make a difference in a tight contest.”

If you are a fan of Andrew Yang: “Nothing that happened tonight matters, a tech CEO talking about dealing with automation was never the kind of candidate who was going to appeal to a bunch of farmers. Just wait until the contest moves on to bigger and more diverse states, and you’ll see him hitting that 15 percent threshold for delegates.”

If you are a fan of Michael Bloomberg: “None of these early states matter. He’s going to laugh and announce that next week he’s running another 100 million in television ads. He’s now running fourth in most national polls. No one is taking him seriously enough. He’s going to clean up a bunch of delegates on Super Tuesday and in March everyone will see that he’s changed how you run for president forever.”

If you are a fan of Tom Steyer: Wait, really? Really? Like, are you related to him or something?

Okay, assuming you really exist, “My guy is running second or third in South Carolina” — no, I didn’t believe it either at first — “and everybody is sleeping on him. He’s going to shock people in the Palmetto State and the whole race will be reset. It will be so eye-opening, Bernie Sanders is going to start saying ‘hi’ back.”

If you are a fan of Tulsi Gabbard: “Tonight’s disappointing finish is because of the treachery of Hillary Clinton, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the party for so long — and the fact that the Iowa caucuses were never her kind of contest. Come on, Hawaiian surfer veteran congresswoman who’s taking on the foreign-policy establishment? Iowa’s Democratic caucus is a bunch of union members who want to hear about ethanol subsidies. She appeals to independents. She’s at nearly 5 percent in New Hampshire. CNN’s not even inviting her to their town halls anymore. Anything she gets in this contest, with the deck so stacked against her, should count as a big win.”

If you are a fan of Michael Bennet: “Hey, he outlasted a lot of bigger names!”

If you are a fan of Deval Patrick: “Okay, maybe he should have filed papers to run for president before the middle of November.”

If you’re a Trump fan: “[Five minutes of hysterical laughter, followed by a deep breath] Democrats contend there’s a wide range of voters who oppose President Trump and they’re convinced that’s a strength of the party. But it’s not. There are worlds of difference between the Bernie Bros, and the local bank manager who’s intrigued by Bloomberg’s ads, and the suburban mom who nods along to everything Amy Klobuchar says, and the university diversity and intersectionality management coordinator who thinks Warren is exactly what the country needs, and the old lifelong Democratic farmer who’s sticking with Biden. They’ve all spent a year believing that their preferred candidate is going to win this, or that at least it would be one of their top choices. A significant chunk of the party is going to walk out of this primary process deeply disappointed by the nominee, and those people are going to be awfully tempted to vote third party or stay home. You really think all of those ‘burn it all down’ volunteers for Bernie are going to knock on doors for Joe Biden this fall? If Trump had been a disaster, with a recession and high unemployment and foreign wars, you might keep Democrats united. But 75 percent of U.S. adults say the economy is in good shape. On paper, this race is over already.”

If you’re a right-leaning but not a Trump fan: “I can’t believe it. All Democrats had to do to beat Trump is be normal, and they couldn’t do that.”

ADDENDA: Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs and their fans across the country. Now, who’s responsible for planning this week to include the Iowa caucuses tonight, the State of the Union on Tuesday, the impeachment vote on Wednesday, and a Democratic primary debate on Friday?

And just how much does the DNC not want people to watch this debate? Who’s itching to watch a Democratic debate on a Friday night?

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