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As Iowa Caucuses, One Big Change

Iowa Democratic Party will release more data than usual
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2020 6:38 AM CST

(Newser) – Election 2020 kicks into high gear on Monday: It's Iowa Caucus day. As the AP puts it, the caucuses "set the tone" for the next 30-day blitz through the early primary states, with Iowa's chosen candidate getting a serious burst of momentum. Here's what you need to know:

  • The who and when: The caucuses begin at 7pm CST, and anyone who will be 18 by election day and is registered with their respective party can participate. Some 1,679 precincts will meet to caucus in the state, and NBC News reports a party record is possible, with Monday night's turnout potentially topping the 240,000 people who turned out in 2008.
  • The what: Once caucusgoers are signed in, reps for each campaign give an 11th-hour pitch and then "first alignment starts": Caucusgoers move to the area of the room that's been designated for their candidate. Those candidates with at least 15% of the vote are dubbed "viable." If you picked a "viable" candidate, that's your vote for the evening. If you haven't, you can move to a viable candidate, band with other non-viable supporters to get a non-viable candidate (yours or theirs) over the 15% mark, or go home. That portion of the night is called realignment, and it can be chaotic. Once realignment is done, a final count of the room is taken.
  • This year's big change: The Iowa Democratic Party is reporting its results differently. In the past they released the state delegate equivalent numbers (that's how many of the 41 delegates up for grabs that each candidate will get at the Democratic National Convention). This year they'll be sharing the raw totals from the first and second alignments, too, with the second alignment numbers being the more meaningful ones. It's data the non-winning candidates could use to spin a story of success.

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  • How predictive? The caucuses have been very prescient in the 21st century: Every winner since 2000 has ended up being the Democratic nominee, notes the AP, though Axios adds neither Bill Clinton nor Donald Trump won Iowa.
  • What the polls say: Fox News cites two: An Emerson College poll out Sunday night put Bernie Sanders at 28%, Joe Biden at 21%, Pete Buttigieg at 15%, Elizabeth Warren at 14%, and Amy Klobuchar at 11%. CBS News' poll has essentially the same order, though it has Sanders and Biden in a tie at 25%, with Buttigieg at 21%, Warren at 16%, and Klobuchar at 5%. (The Des Moines Register/CNN poll wasn't released because of a snafu).
  • The response: Axios takes a look at how Sanders' rivals are "lower[ing] expectations" in the face of a possible Sanders victory, with "advisers to Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg ... already insisting that Iowa's not everything in advance of possible disappointments tonight."
  • The final pitch: Politico takes a look at how Sanders and Warren were operating at the very last minute. The crux of its take: "In the final hours ... the two leading progressive presidential candidates are making diametrically opposed pitches to voters: Sanders' campaign is leaning hard into their anti-establishment bonafides, while Warren is selling herself as a candidate who can unify a fractured Democratic Party."
  • Sanders already won one caucus: That would be the kids caucus, which was held Saturday at Sidekick Coffee & Books in Iowa City. The Iowa City Press-Citizen has the quirky story.
(Read more Iowa caucuses stories.)

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