Discover more from IMPORTANTVILLE
CAUCUS DAY EDITION: Buttigieg faces voters outside Indiana for the first time
Can the former South Bend mayor win delegates tonight by focusing on rural areas?
DES MOINES—A year ago, most voters couldn’t even pronounce his name. First name ‘Mayor’, last name ‘Pete’, the candidate joked at seven events across Iowa over the weekend.
But inside Lincoln High School’s gymnasium Sunday—where 2,030 people gathered for the former mayor’s closing message, 420 of them reporters—they were chanting: Boot-edge-edge. Boot-edge-edge. Boot-edge-edge.
It was a surreal thing to witness, having covered him all of these months, in places where he might only draw a dozen voters. The former mayor’s arc from unknown Midwestern mayor to a serious contender for the Democratic presidential primary seemed complete.
Over the last three weeks, Buttigieg has barnstormed the state, holding 53 town halls. Will it make a difference tonight? He needs to “do well” in Iowa tonight, he again acknowledged at a press conference with reporters Sunday in Coralville. But he declined to define what that means.
“I think that there’s all kinds of complicated math to it that I'll leave to the analysts, but what I know is, it will be our opportunity to demonstrate that we have the kind of strong support, not just in theory, not just in polls, and not just, you know, as we're kind of traveling around before the vote, but actually on the night of the caucuses, and there are any number of ways to count it,” Buttigieg told reporters. “But the bottom line is we think tomorrow is going to prove the support and the strength we have.”
Some analysts say Buttigieg needs to finish in the top three here to advance to New Hampshire. Others say the results will be more muddled, and there’s a scenario where he could finish fourth and still have an argument to continue campaigning.
But Sunday evening, at the Des Moines Marriott, Rep. Anthony Brown, the national co-chair for the Buttigieg campaign, offered a clearer rubric: He told me the former mayor needs to beat former Vice President Joe Biden in both Iowa and New Hampshire to continue a serious campaign in the race’s moderate lane.
Whatever happens tonight, Buttigieg is already planning for the long haul. He is scheduled to fly to New Hampshire later tonight, where he’ll do five campaign events on Tuesday. He filed for New York’s ballot this morning. And he’s slated a February 13 fundraiser back in Indianapolis.
Tonight, he’ll appear at a caucus night watch party at The Bell Center at Drake University.
Good Monday morning, and happy Caucus Day. It’s 30 degrees and sunny. The caucuses begin at 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Eastern. Results should begin around 8:45 pm. Eastern. It’s going to be a late-night and one that might not deliver clear answers about the state of the race. Hoosiers Rep. Greg Pence and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar are here in Iowa as well as surrogate for the Trump campaign.
WHAT I’M WATCHING:
Can Buttigieg turn out the “future former Republicans” and independents he talks about so often in rural parts of the state, such as Southeastern Iowa, and in the 4th Congressional District represented by Republican Rep. Steve King?
Suburban turnout will also be key for Buttigieg.
A HOOSIER’S GUIDE TO THE IOWA CAUCUSES
Isn’t Iowa just Indiana with fewer people and worse tenderloins?
Yes. Although I had some amazing tenderloin strips at the Iowa Taproom last night. And Smitty’s by the Des Moines International Airport makes a fine sando.
How do caucuses work?
People in 1,679 precincts go to a nearby community center, for example, and move around the room according to which candidate they support (There are satellite caucuses too in places like Glasgow, Scotland, and Paris.). So they may go huddle in a corner if they support Buttigieg, and gather in a different corner if they support Sen. Amy Klobuchar. They could even gather in a group as “uncommitted.” If a candidate doesn’t meet a 15% threshold of support, they can re-align. Second choices become incredibly important in determining a winner. The Iowa Democratic Party will release three results: delegate totals, and raw vote totals after the first alignment and second alignment.
How many delegates does Iowa have?
There are 49 delegates up for grabs tonight—41 pledged and 8 unpledged.
How have Hoosier presidential hopefuls fared in the past?
Buttigieg will be the first Hoosier candidate to face Iowa voters since 1996, when the late Sen. Richard Lugar campaigned here (Buttigieg praised the late Senator in Cedar Rapids Saturday). He finished seventh with 4 percent. In 1976, then-Sen. Birch Bayh was the first Hoosier to participate in what had only four years earlier become the country’s first-in-the-nation electoral contest. He finished third with 13.2% of the vote behind “Uncommitted” and Jimmy Carter, who won with 27.6 percent. “No matter where I go in this state,” Bayh said, “that goddamned Jimmy Carter has been there four times before me.”
How is Buttigieg faring down the homestretch?
He’s drawing big, energetic crowds in unexpected places, rural towns where Democrats haven’t campaigned in since 2008. The sense on the ground seems to be that the caucuses are Sanders’ to lose. The energy at Biden events is lacking. Warren has a vaunted field operation. Sen. Amy Klobuchar seems to be surging. A RealClear Politics average of polls ranks Buttigieg third with 16.4%, behind Biden (20.2%) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (24.2%).
Henry Gomez, Buzzfeed: Pete Buttigieg Wants To Win Iowa By Winning Republicans
Pete Buttigieg isn’t a Republican. But he’s thinking like one as his presidential campaign tries to engineer a strong finish next week in the first Democratic caucuses.
His closing schedule is heavy on Iowa counties that four years ago flipped from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. His closing argument is an assurance that Bernie Sanders is too liberal for his taste, combined with a pitch for “future former Republicans.” His team on the ground counts at least 45 precinct captains as recent Republican converts and is quick to brag — with a bit of Trumpian flair — about the big crowds Buttigieg is drawing in small Republican towns.
Elena Schneider, Politico: Pete Buttigieg’s Iowa delegate play
Over the past three weeks, Pete Buttigieg swept through midsize Iowa cities in Obama-Trump counties, a go-everywhere attempt to deliver on his closing message of bringing in Democrats, independents and former Republicans and promote the idea of electability.
But the travel schedule was also calibrated to the Iowa caucuses’ specific, esoteric rules — and Buttigieg’s best chance of making a big splash on Monday. In an Electoral College-like twist, the Iowa caucuses’ delegate system gives some extra weight to less-populated areas, and a candidate who hits the viability threshold — at least 15 percent support — to win state delegates in most of those areas could rack up an outsize advantage Monday night.
That’s all for now. I’ll be sending an evening dispatch to subscribers later today. Get it here.