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Yesterday, in Who is Really Ahead in the Iowa Caucus

I also asked a series of "What If?" questions.

Four What Ifs?

  1. What if Warren tops 15% but Buttigieg doesn't?
  2. What if Buttigieg tops 15% but Warren doesn't?
  3. What if neither tops 15%?
  4. What if both do?

This evening, I took a dive into that Monmouth Poll and they see things like I did.

“Caucus electorates are the most difficult to model in polling. The smartest takeaway from this, or any Iowa poll for that matter, is to be prepared for anything on Monday,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Currently, 47% of likely Iowa caucus goers are firmly decided on their candidate choice. That hasn’t changed much from Monmouth’s poll two weeks ago when firm support stood at 43%. Nearly half (45%) say they are open to switching support on caucus night, including 13% who rate this as a high possibility, 23% a moderate possibility, and 9% a low possibility. Firm support for the top polling candidates ranges from 47% for Klobuchar, 48% for Biden, and 49% for Buttigieg to 55% for Warren and 58% for Sanders.

The poll asked caucus goers to name a candidate they have in mind as a second choice. When these are combined with initial preferences, Biden (39%), Warren (34%), Sanders (32%), and Buttigieg (29%) are bunched together. They are trailed by Klobuchar (22%), Steyer (10%), and Yang (7%) as either a first or second choice. These numbers have not changed much since earlier this month.

A key factor in how these second choices will play out, though, is determined by whose supporters will need to realign if their first choice does not reach the 15% viability threshold for convention delegates. If Klobuchar and Yang remain viable in some precincts, the race remains tight. A hypothetical six candidate field puts the race at 22% Biden, 22% Sanders, 17% Buttigieg, 16% Warren, 12% Klobuchar, and 5% Yang.

If viability comes down to just the top four candidates, though, the race is still tight but Biden appears to benefit slightly more. When likely caucus goers are asked to choose from among this limited field, the race stands at 29% Biden, 25% Sanders, 20% Buttigieg, and 19% Warren. In this scenario, about 4 in 10 Klobuchar supporters would realign with Biden, while about 1 in 4 would go to Buttigieg, 1 in 5 to Warren, and just a handful to Sanders.

“Klobuchar’s performance could be a real game changer in the final delegate allocation out of Iowa,” said Murray.


The most recent poll is Emmerson. Let's investigate.

The final Emerson College/7 News Iowa poll finds Senator Bernie Sanders with a solid lead going into Monday’s caucus with 28% support. Former Vice President Joe Biden follows with 21%, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 15%, Senator Elizabeth Warren is at 14%, and Senator Amy Klobuchar is the only other candidate in double digits with 11%. Data was collected from January 30 - February 2, 2020, mixed-mode, n=853, margin of error of +/- 3.3%.

This represents a slight shift from last week’s Emerson College/ Channel 7 poll of Iowa; Sanders has dropped two points, Buttigieg has gained five points, and Warren picked up three points. Biden’s support was unchanged and Klobuchar has lost two points.

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Sixty-six (66%) percent of likely Democratic Caucus-goers will definitely vote for their candidate, but on the eve of the Iowa Caucuses, 34% say there is still a chance they could change their mind, and vote for someone else.

Respondents were also asked about their second choice candidate. Among Warren supporters, 46% chose Sanders, and 25% chose Klobuchar. Of Buttigieg supporters, 30% picked Klobuchar, 22% picked Warren, 19% picked Sanders, and 18% picked Biden*. And of Klobuchar supporters, 41% had Biden as their second choice, 26% had Warren and 23% had Buttigieg*.

Klobuchar Swing

That last line is key. Klobuchar may very well be the determining factor.

This is what I said yesterday, answering my four "What If?" questions above.

Crucial Questions Answered

1: Votes for Buttigieg are more likely to go for Biden than the others.

2: Votes for Warren are highly likely to go to Bernie.

3: I suspect Bernie is the winner but it is harder to say.

4: I suspect Biden will pick up more of those for voting for Klobuchar, Yang, Steyer, etc.

At the time I wrote that I had not looked at either Monmouth or Emmerson.

Berrnie may very well be in the lead, but probably not by 7 percentage points. Yet, if Warren falls flat, it could be by more than 10.

Very Close Race

This race is likely much close than media portrays especially if both Pete and Warren exceed 15% in all the districts.

Biden is a decent shot to come away with the most delegates even if Bernie beats him in the first round.

The second wild card is turnout. Older voters tend to be more likely to vote, but Bernie voters are more likely to be energized.

This is not much more than a tossup in terms of delegate count, even if Bernie wins the first round of the caucus.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock