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Trail Mix: Our Post-Iowa Nevada Democratic Caucus Power Rankings

So we’re still waiting on Iowa to give us official numbers. Hopefully, those numbers will finally start to materialize later today. However, we have enough of a sense of what happened in that “First in the Nation” s–tshow to know that the field is definitely all shook up… Even if it isn’t getting winnowed any further this week.

Also, Iowa just put Nevada on notice. Surprise, surprise, the biggest loser turns out to be the caucus system itself.

🤩 #1 Bernie Sanders (↔️ unchanged)
Photo by Andrew Davey

We may not know much about what exactly happened in Iowa, but it’s highly likely that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) finished at or near the very top. As much as another (former?) frontrunner’s campaign is trying to minimize Sanders’ strong Iowa finish, the fact of the matter is that Sanders prevailed with a solid ground game and despite a last-minute negative ad blitz targeting him.

Since we’re also a caucus state, base enthusiasm and ground game organization matter. But since we’re more diverse than other caucus states, Sanders’ outreach to diverse communities will be put to the ultimate test in a state where our caucus turnout certainly won’t be 92% white. And with initial reports suggesting that 2020 Iowa Caucus turnout was on par with 2016, and that second-choice realignments favored his rivals while barely moving the needle for him, Sanders’ team may need to turn up their Nevada operation some more.

🔼 #2: Elizabeth Warren (up from #3 last week)
Photo by Andrew Davey

These last four months have been very rough for her, but U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) may have finally begun turning it around. Right in the nick of time, she finished high enough in Iowa to beat expectations. And now, she gets to reintroduce herself and her campaign as a positive alternative to the increasingly negative tone of the other frontrunners’ messages. 

Of course, she still has much further to go. Fortunately for Warren, she has a large Nevada field operation that’s been nearly a year in the making. While I’ve received reports indicating her ground game may be a bit shakier than I surmised a couple months ago, it’s still amongst the best of the bunch. And now that we have actual evidence of Warren’s “second choice” appeal paying dividends during realignment, she may still have room to rebound here.

😱 #3 (TIE): Pete Buttigieg (🔼 from #4 last week) and Joe Biden (🔻 from #1 last week)
Photo by Andrew Davey

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg got some great news last week with LGBTQ+ civil rights newcomer group Silver State Equality endorsing him. Today, he emerges with additional good news of a top of the top-tier finish in Iowa. But before you start blasting up that one Panic! at the Disco song that a lot of us are sick of hearing (Sorry, Panic! at the Disco! It’s not your fault, it’s Pete’s!), Buttigieg’s High Hopes will be grounded very quickly if he can’t diversify his base. 

But then again, if 2020 caucus turnout hews closely to 2016 and if the demographic breakdowns here hew closely to the Iowa results, Buttigieg may yet secure a strong Nevada showing if he runs up the score in the historically high-turnout Las Vegas and Reno suburban precincts that tend to be whiter and wealthier than the state average. Also keep an eye on the rural counties, as Buttigieg seemed to fare well in some rural areas and small towns outside the Des Moines region last night.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Former Vice President Joe Biden needed a strong Iowa finish to “hit the reset button” on another rough patch in his campaign. While we still don’t have official statewide results, the entrance poll, the collection of anecdotal precinct results, and back-up data from multiple campaigns all point towards Biden finishing a distant fourth or fifth.

While Biden and his team have voiced confidence that he can win the nomination despite whatever happens in these first two early states, I haven’t been as convinced. Unless New Hampshire voters help him out (and so far, that appear all that likely) next week, he’ll need something akin to Hillary Clinton’s late push to save her campaign here in Nevada in 2016. And remember, Clinton effectively tied with Sanders in Iowa that year… And she had a much stronger ground game that year than what we’ve seen from Biden so far this year.

🔻 #5: Tom Steyer (down from #4 last week)
Photo by Andrew Davey

Yes, we can see that billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer barely registered in Iowa. But if the very warm reception at SEIU 1107’s “Unions for All” Nevada Summit suggests anything, it’s that Steyer’s big bet on Nevada might insulate him from underwhelming Iowa and New Hampshire showings. Steyer has enjoyed a bump in recent Nevada polls, so I see a path for him to win some delegates later this month. Keep an eye on this billionaire who’s actually playing to win here (as opposed to the other billionaire who’s decided on a “Super Tuesday or Bust” strategy).

↔️ #6: Amy Klobuchar (unchanged)
Photo by Andrew Davey

While U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) didn’t finish on top in Iowa, she seems to have performed well enough (basically, in the same neighborhood as Biden) to justify staying in the race a little longer. Like Warren, Klobuchar benefitted from a strong Iowa ground game. Unlike Warren, Klobuchar got a very late start in organizing here in Nevada. She now has some staff and volunteers here, but she still has more catching up to do.

↔️ #7: Andrew Yang (unchanged)
Photo by Andrew Davey

There’s no spinning this: Tech investor Andrew Yang is going nowhere close to the Democratic nomination this year. He probably won’t net any DNC delegate slots out of Iowa. If anything, I’m just keeping him on the board because he has enough money and enough of a volunteer base to keep going here. And if Iowa says anything about what might happen here in Nevada, “The Yang Gang” might be large enough to sway the final results come realignment.

🧐 And finally, some notes on… Us
Photo by Andrew Davey

How many times have we heard this: “We matter! We matter! Why can’t they see how much #WeMatter?” And how many times have we heard certain pundits talk up Nevada in the wake of Iowa’s caucus fracas debacle of a disaster?

News flash: The Nevada State Democratic Party has been planning to use similar technology that’s now landing the Iowa Democratic Party in a giant pot of boiling water. Earlier today, the state party released a statement clarifying that they will use a different app and vendor at our caucus later this month. Even if they manage to get this different tech infrastructure up and running very soon, it’s probably still a good idea for them to run a stress test ASAP and have sufficient pens, paper, and phone lines on hand for back-up.

Even if Nevada Democrats’ technology proves superior to Iowa Democrats’ clusterf–k, there’s still the matter of the caucus process itself. Sure, we don’t do coin flips: We draw cards, instead. Otherwise, all the same quirks in Iowa’s caucus process that anger outside observers, quirks like realignment “persuasion” and delegate rounding, are present in ours.

If Iowa’s taught us anything, it’s that the caucus itself is the ultimate epic fail. It’s intrinsically designed to keep voters out, and it’s infuriating to see some Democrats insist on keeping this archaic system, even while complaining about (very real) voter suppression. It’s too late for us to drop our caucus this month, but this really should be our last. It’s long past time for us to grow up, pay up, and upgrade our voters to a real primary where they can cast real ballots and trust a real security system to deliver real results in a timely manner.

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