After months and months of polling, handshaking and wolfing down pork chops on a stick, the Iowa caucuses are finally upon us. Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination will finally get a road test.
Next Monday, at 7 pm local time, the weirdly critical Iowa contest gets under way. Critical because seven of the last nine Democratic winners in Iowa have gone on to win the nomination.
Democrats in that small state of three million souls will head to 1,678 local libraries, gymnasiums and living rooms to try to convince their neighbors that former Vice President Joe Biden or Sanders or someone else has the best chance to beat Trump in November.
The immediate goal is to win 11,402 delegates who will go to county conventions in March, to be whittled down to ever-smaller numbers at subsequent congressional district and state conventions, and then – eventually – to the 41 delegates who will represent Iowa Democrats at the national convention in July.
All that for one percent of the 3,979 delegates who will vote for the ultimate candidate in Milwaukee.
It shouldn’t matter so much, but it does, and especially this year when there are still numerous well-funded candidates duking it out and when the issue of “electability” rings louder than perhaps ever before.
The caucuses are proportional, meaning that any candidate receiving at least 15 percent of the vote can pocket some delegates.
They are also open to any registered Democrat, even if you choose to become one that very day. And that’s where there is serious opportunity for mischief. There’s nothing illegal in this; in fact, the Democratic Party in Iowa encourages new sign-ups.
Supporters of Donald Trump — Republicans and independents — should change their registrations and head to those caucuses to talk up Bernie. The socialist senator from Vermont has been surging in the state, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls, and looks like he might win. A very up-to-the minute poll from Iowa State University has Sanders nine points ahead of Biden and five points ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running second.
If Biden does poorly in Iowa and in New Hampshire, where he also trails Bernie at the moment, he will head to South Carolina a wounded duck. Bernie has picked up steam in the Palmetto state; one recent survey showed him only seven points behind Biden.
Though the former veep still leads in South Carolina and nationally, Biden’s aura of invincibility might be undermined by hints that he can’t cut it on the campaign trail. It’s all about momentum.
Why should Republicans back Bernie? Because he has a real chance of securing the nomination and exactly zero chance of winning the election in November. Democratic leaders know that, which is why they have been targeting him these past few weeks.
A recent piece in the Daily Beast describes a coalition of Democratic activists trying to raise money to run negative ads targeting the Vermonter. One group thought likely to participate in that effort is the Democratic Majority for Israel, which is apparently buying tens of thousands of dollars in airtime in Iowa, according to FCC filings.
Many senior Democrats, supposedly including former President Barack Obama, do not think Bernie can beat Trump. They think his policies are too radical and that he will not win over the majority of voters; they are correct.
Consider this: Warren went from surging to struggling in the blink of an eye, all because she tried to explain how she would pay for “Medicare for All.” Her effort came under heavy fire from those who actually crunched the numbers in her proposal, pointing out that, contrary to her claims, her plan would raise taxes on middle-class Americans.
Sanders has not even tried to explain how he would pay for Medicare for All, free college tuition and forgiving all student debt. In a recent interviewon CBS Evening News, Norah O’Donnell pressed the democratic socialist for answers, after citing estimates that his program would cost taxpayers an estimated $60 trillion. Bernie told the anchor, “You don’t know. Nobody knows. This is impossible to predict…”
A dumbfounded O’Donnell responded, “You’re going to propose a plan to the American people and you’re not going to tell them how much it costs?”
This is not the first time Sanders has ducked the question. Last fall he gave a similar answer to a CNBC interviewer, saying “You’re asking me to come up with an exact detailed plan of how every American – how much you’re going to pay more in taxes, how much I’m going to pay. I don’t think I have to do that right now.”
The reality is, Sanders has no idea. He hasn’t done the hard (read: Impossible) work of figuring out how this country, already $23 trillion in debt, can ladle on vast new entitlement programs without seriously handicapping our future.
Critics note that Sanders’ arrogance and resistance to reality have been hallmarks of his career.
Here’s former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank talking about his colleague back in 1991, when Sanders had just been elected to the House: “Bernie alienates his natural allies…His holier-than-thou attitude — saying in a very loud voice he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else — really undercuts his effectiveness.”
In 2016, Frank doubled down: “Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years with little to show for it in terms of his accomplishments…”
Bernie Sanders has a loyal following of about 30 percent of the Democratic Party who believe his fantastical talk of revolution. That’s all. That’s not enough to win the Oval Office. Republicans should do everything possible to make him the nominee, including voting for him in the Iowa caucuses.
Published on The Hill