Post-Iowa Reset Not What You’d Expect

Biden's support is in decline. But it's not clear that Buttigieg is getting an Iowa bounce.

Photo via Los Angeles Times

Going into Iowa, I noted that the race was almost exactly where it was when it started more than a year earlier. Joe Biden was the clear frontrunner and only Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were in double digits. Indeed, there was only one week all cycle when someone else broke into the conversation and that candidate, Kamala Harris, has already dropped out.

But Pete Buttigieg seems to have “won” Iowa and is well-positioned to do well in New Hampshire tomorrow. And Joe Biden not only performed somewhat poorly in Iowa, he’s expected to do likewise in the Granite State and has been written off by several different analysts as a second-tier candidate.

I’ve been waiting for national polls to catch up to events and that’s finally happened. The results are surprising to me. Here’s the RealClearPolitics average:

Granting that it’s only three new polls and that the results could lag somewhat given the weirdness of the Iowa reporting, Biden has clearly taken a big hit, even if he retains a slight lead in the average and leads in two of the three polls. That’s not surprising. Nor is Sanders’ movement into a much tighter second—essentially a first-place tie.

No, it’s the Buttigieg, who was clearly going to finish 1 or 2 in Iowa doesn’t seem to have gotten a bounce at all.

And that Mike Bloomberg, who didn’t even qualify for Iowa or New Hampshire—or any of the debates thus far—is not only ahead of Buttigieg but closer to Elizabeth Warren than she is to Sanders.

Look at the longer trendlines:

Buttigieg is back roughly where he was last November and well below his December peak.

Bloomberg is far and away higher in the average than he has been at any point.

Again, I recognize that we have very little data and that it’s muddy. Only Quinnipiac’s poll was taken completely after the Caucuses.

FILED UNDER: Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jen says:

    Only Quinnipiac’s poll was taken entirely after the caucuses, which were themselves a disaster, and were the only real headline. These results are not a surprise–Iowa basically made the actual results a non-story.

    Buttigieg finished better than people had anticipated in Iowa, but a) the results weren’t around for days, b) who “won” was utterly buried by the app screw-up, and c) the only people nationally who are watching this closely are members of the media, pundits, political junkies, and Democratic voters in New Hampshire.

    I think we need to see where things are in a week or two. Iowa was such a mess that it doesn’t surprise me at all that Buttigieg didn’t get a bounce.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Jen: I think that’s right but we’ve known since Tuesday morning that Buttigieg did very well and today is really the last day to judge an Iowa bounce, since tomorrow we’ll turn our attention completely to New Hampshire.

    I’ve caveated this multiple times. And I think we’ll know pretty much how the race is going to shake out in less than a month, when Super Tuesday results are in. But trying to read the tea leaves from modest new information is kind of the game we political junkies play.

  3. Jen says:

    @James Joyner: I agree, and as a political junkie AND a NH resident, I’m trying right alongside you.

    I think that this year might be the year that upends a lot of what used to be considered conventional wisdom. The way Trump ran his race in 2016 did some of that, but honestly–I think this year could be the year that IA and NH end up with almost no relevance. IA screwed themselves with that disaster, and tomorrow it’s going to be either Bernie or Pete in NH, which won’t be sustainable in Super Tuesday states. “Bounces” from either depend on people absorbing and then adopting/embracing the logic behind the votes, and then sustaining the campaigns with future voting. I don’t think that’s going to happen this year, and it’s going to rewrite how campaigns are run. Bloomberg is already cracking that glass, we need to see if he is successful in getting actual votes. If he starts getting votes–2nd or 3rd place in ST states–he’ll have proven that winning in IA and NH doesn’t matter. At all.

  4. But, as noted, Bloomberg is not on the ballot in NH. So, the issue is where that support goes tomorrow (i.e., the national polling is not where to look for the bounce, if there is one, but rather to NH).

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    national polling is not where to look for the bounce, if there is one, but rather to NH

    I suppose that’s true, in terms of sustaining momentum. But one presumes that the views of the overall Democratic nominating electorate will still matter going forward. Maybe a Klobuchar and some of the other spoilers will finally drop out after New Hampshire. But I don’t see why Biden, Sanders, Warren, Bloomberg, or Buttigieg won’t still be in it on Super Tuesday regardless of what happens tomorrow.

  6. CSK says:

    However it shakes out tomorrow, it won’t be anywhere near the disaster area the Iowa caucus was.

  7. CSK says:

    In case you weren’t aware of this, Trump is holding a rally in Manchester, NH, this evening.

  8. CSK says:

    Trump, speaking in New Hampshire, refers to his great affection for Concord…Massachusetts.

  9. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’ve caveated this multiple times. And I think we’ll know pretty much how the race is going to shake out in less than a month, when Super Tuesday results are in.

    Unless someone starts suddenly hitting over 50%, and knocks a whole lot of folks out before Super Tuesday, I don’t see us knowing after Super Tuesday either. Proportional delegates, rather than winner take all.

    And, as you note, few candidates have any reason to exit before Super Tuesday.

    Every 4 years pundits get excited about the prospect of a brokered convention. And every 4 years it doesn’t happen. And then the primary schedule gets rejiggered to make it more likely. They might have finally done it.

    Here’s my guess: Biden and Bernie lead the delegate counts going into the convention, with neither having enough delegates to win on the first ballot. Superdelegates come into play on the second ballot, put Biden over the top, and BernieBros go insane. Dems in disarray, Trump wins re-election. Trump’s decline continues, and we are told that staring at the camera and drooling while ranting about Clinton’s emails, slurring his speech to say “Clintonsh emails” is totally owning the libs because it sounds like a bigoted anti-trans slur.

    Rationale for this prediction: we are living in the worst timeline.

  10. Moosebreath says:


    “However it shakes out tomorrow, it won’t be anywhere near the disaster area the Iowa caucus was.”

    Famous last words…

  11. Teve says:

    @CSK: Apparently in Manchester he said we should impeach Obama for healthcare.

  12. CSK says:

    Maybe. I hope not. Trump is claiming that more people showed up for his Manchester wingding than did at all the Democratic events combined.

  13. CSK says:

    @Teve: Retroactively?

  14. @James Joyner:

    But one presumes that the views of the overall Democratic nominating electorate will still matter going forward

    Sure. But we have now hit the part of the proess whereing the sequencing matters and the long-term national picture will be dictated by the short-term.

  15. Mister Bluster says:


    Before anyone does that we need to dig up Nixon’s corpse and impeach and convict him.
    I’ve got a shovel.

  16. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster: He’s tanned, rested, and…rotten.

  17. Ken_L says:

    Biden is bleeding support to Bloomberg and Buttigieg, who at least seem motivated to win. Good. So much will depend on how long Warren and Buttiegieg stay in, and where their supporters will go when they finally withdraw.

    Thank God there are no superdelegates. A big chunk of them already committed to Biden would have really screwed things up.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..He’s tanned, rested, and…rotten.

    I know, I know. He’s been dead for over a quarter of a century. I should let it go.
    But I’d still like to find the ratfuker that ripped the “Impeach Nixon, Now More Than Ever” bumpersticker off of the tailgate of my 1960 F-100 back in ’73.

  19. Teve says:

    Previous winners of the Iowa caucus include:

    Ted Cruz
    Rick Santorum
    Tom Harkin
    Mike Huckabee

    So it’s not unimportant, but it ain’t over.

  20. CSK says:

    @Teve: Trump won in NH in 2016. Obama, Bush, and Clinton came in second in their respective years. It used to be said that one couldn’t win the presidency without winning NH, but that clearly hasn’t been the case for a while now.

  21. de stijl says:


    Bacterial effects on the corpse would make him grayish which with white folks sort of reads as green to many people.

    The body eats itself from the inside out thanks to our co-evolved intestinal microflora.

    A buddy had to get a fecal transplant recently due to clostridium difficile. It was pretty scary, he was down to 125 and basically lived within 50 feet of a toilet for months.

    Green, rested, and ready guy is arguably a better candidate than orange, narcisistic, and petty guy.

  22. CSK says:

    Biden seems to have written off NH as a loss for him.

    And… Trump accused Massachusetts of “busing in” people to vote illegally in 2016, which is why he lost the state to Clinton. He also accused Nancy Pelosi of “mumbling” throughout his SOTU speech; the crowd responded with a chant of “lock her up.” Morons.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    If someone doesn’t stop Bernie we’ll have no chance of taking the Senate and we may lose the House. Democratic Congresspeople will run from Bernie. Joe Manchin will likely switch parties. Trump will win and that will be the end of SCOTUS for a generation. The Trump corruption will settle into the fabric of this country. Minority rights will be rolled back.

    1972. Again.

  24. CSK says:

    Michael Bloomberg, who was not on the ballot, won Dixville Notch, NH. He got three write-in votes. Buttigieg and Sanders received one vote apiece.


Speak Your Mind