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What we can learn from the Iowa caucus debacle: Dems in trouble in rural America, Biden in trouble everywhere

Painful lessons

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Some stream of consciousness takeaways from the still-not-official Iowa Democratic caucus, and what they mean moving forward in the 2020 election.

1. The Iowa caucuses may really mean nothing this time.

Iowa's detractors on the right and left peddle the line "Iowa is meaningless" every time, mainly out of a loathing for flyover country and/or jealousy that where they live isn't give such prominence. But the truth says differently. For example, since the Iowa caucuses began in 1972, only one Democrat has won the presidency without first winning the Iowa caucus. And that was Bill Clinton in 1992, when Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin also ran for president as a favorite son so it wasn't contested. However, the complete and total face-plant by the Iowa Democratic Party may make the quadrennial lament that Iowa doesn't matter true this time. As of this writing, the results were still neither complete nor certified, and New Hampshire is just a few days away. It seems public perception has ruled Iowa null and void following this debacle, and perception is nine-tenths of the law in politics.

2. Joe Biden is a mortally wounded candidate.

When you lead the polls for a year, and then are soundly rejected by actual voters the first time they get the chance to decide your fate, you have been weighed, measured, and found wanting. Especially when you're a high name ID candidate like a former vice president. Joe Biden also had stalwart Democrats like popular former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former Iowa caucus winner John Kerry attempt to save him late in the process to no avail. Iowa is a retail politics state, with only one top 100 television market, so you can't buy it with massive ad buys. You have to let voters get to know you, and when voters saw Biden up close and personal they saw a politician way past his prime. Only once ever has a major party nominated for president someone who didn't finish in the top three in Iowa. That was John McCain in 2008, who went on to get trounced in the general election.

3. Democrats failed to take back ground in rural America.

There are 33 counties in Iowa, almost all rural, that voted at least once for Barack Obama in a general election and then went to Donald Trump in 2016. Which is emblematic of what we saw in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that Trump also flipped. These are the kinds of places a candidate like Biden was supposed to bring back into the Democratic fold. However, he failed to capture the attention and imagination of rural Iowa, and that was the main reason both overall caucus turnout failed to reach Democrats' lofty expectations, as well as Biden failed. That does not bode well for Democrats in rural America later in the general election.

4. Twitter is not America.

About 80% of Iowa Democrats told exit pollsters they don't get their news from Twitter, which mirrors Twitter's actual demographics — almost 80% of its users are outside the U.S. This demonstrates a disconnect between the left/Democrat Party we see portrayed on Twitter — with its cancel culture, woke police, and obsession with fake collusions/hoaxes — and those who call themselves Democrats in places between New York City and Los Angeles. This presents a challenge for conservatives. On one hand, we must respond and confront the crazed left that shows itself on Twitter. On the other hand, we should be careful not to stereotype everybody not voting our way as a construct of those tropes, lest we risk alienating people we might have a chance at persuading at some point.

5. 2020 polling is off to a bad start.

There was the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll getting pulled for mysterious reasons (and no, I don't buy simple user error), but that has overshadowed the exposing of Biden's polling house of cards. Monmouth's final poll had Biden winning with 25%. CBS/YouGov final poll is also had Biden tied for the lead at 25%. Ditto USA Today's final poll. He finished fourth and 10 points below that. Just a bit outside. Biden finished a full 5 points below his final Iowa Caucus RealClearPolitics polling average.

6. Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang got screwed.

Those same polls that way overestimated Biden's support were used by the Democratic Party to keep candidates like Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang off the debate stage to make their case. Those candidates got royally screwed by the polling scam.

One last thing…
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