The real winner in Iowa? Donald Trump

This debacle has made the Democrats look more dysfunctional than ever.

Sean Collins
US correspondent

Topics Politics USA

After a long wait from Iowa, we can finally declare the winner of the Democratic Party caucuses: Donald Trump.

What a debacle for the Democrats the caucuses have been. The Iowa Democratic Party failed to release the results last night, saying it found ‘inconsistencies’ with the reporting from its new app – a gadget designed by a firm called Shadow Inc. Think of all of the efforts down the drain. More than a year of campaigning in Iowa, millions of dollars spent, thousands of volunteer hours spent knocking on doors, all of the gatherings in coffee shops and school halls – it was all wasted. Last night, the TV news teams waited with their fancy electronic screens ready to give precinct-by-precinct results, showing big 0s next to each candidate’s name. Instead, they had to try desperately to fill the airtime with mindless talk. What a joke.

This year the Democrats seem determined to hand the election to Trump on a silver platter. They chose to impeach him over Ukraine, but were unable to convince a majority of Americans this was the right thing to do. In fact, they managed to increase his standing in the polls in the process. The Democrats’ fans in the media are also inadvertently helping Trump. Last week, CNN aired a conversation of political commentators mocking the ‘rubes’ who support the president – which was quickly turned by the Trump campaign into an advertisement for his re-election.

And now Iowa. The scripts write themselves for the Trump staff. The Democratic Party that freaked out over supposed Russian hacking of the 2016 election, that doesn’t lose a chance to virtue-signal about stopping ‘voter suppression’, cannot count votes. The party that wants to ban fracking, and tell the thousands who will be made jobless to ‘learn to code’, does not know how to code. And the party that wants to take over and run the $4 trillion healthcare system for 330million Americans cannot organise an election among less than 200,000 voters.

Coming into the Iowa caucuses, the Democratic field was in disarray, splintered among many candidates and factions. Contenders have been squabbling like gossipy teenagers, as when Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders fought over whether or not Sanders had once told Warren that a woman could not defeat Trump. As with the impeachment, the Democrats have continued to re-litigate the 2016 election rather than look forward – with Hillary Clinton weighing in a number of times, including a recent outburst in which she said ‘nobody likes’ Sanders. Now Iowa, rather than resolving the party’s messy conflicts, has made it look even more dysfunctional.

With no official results, candidates were free to put their own spin on the outcome. Pete Buttigieg – the former mayor of the small city of South Bend, Indiana – said, ‘We are going on to New Hampshire [the next primary vote] victorious’. Sanders said, ‘I have a good feeling that we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa’. His staff released their own polling that showed him winning. If Buttigieg or Sanders were ultimately to win Iowa, that would be a significant achievement, especially as they would have defeated the party establishment’s leading candidate and former vice president, Joe Biden. (He appears likely to have come in a distant fourth.) But with the vote snafu, Buttigieg and Sanders were denied one of the main benefits of winning in Iowa – a victory speech to a nationwide audience, something that has in the past (think of Barack Obama in 2008) given big boosts to campaigns going into future primaries.

If the Democrats want to avoid a divided and chaotic nomination outcome, and to avoid a brokered candidate selection at their convention, they need a candidate to obtain broad support across the party’s factions. The party’s selection system doesn’t help them. Trump had only minority support within the Republican Party in 2016, but the Republicans’ winner-takes-all approach to state delegates meant he could garner a clear victory. In contrast, the Democratic Party selects on a proportional basis, which means candidates need to expand their support. Right now, the leading candidate nationally is Biden. But he is only polling at around 27 per cent, and so he has a long way to go. And given how shaky he has been on the stump, I wouldn’t bet the house on him prevailing.

The Iowa debacle is a setback for Sanders in particular. Bernie needed big, high-profile wins in Iowa and New Hampshire as a potential springboard to success in other states, where he does not poll as well. His support base is loyal, but right now limited – focused on younger (18- to 29-year-old) white Democrats. And even if Sanders is found to win in Iowa, the turnout yesterday was troubling for his campaign, and for Democrats generally. Reports suggest that the turnout was similar to 2016, when around 170,000 (of a total population of 3.2million) Iowans came out to caucus. This was seen then as lacklustre, and well below 2008’s 240,000 voters. It doesn’t look like Sanders is winning back Trump voters. Nor does it look like a ‘political revolution’ in the making.

The Iowa meltdown makes the Democrats’ contest look like a sideshow of political pygmies compared to Trump’s continued political dominance. As expected, Trump threw Iowa back in the Democrats’ faces. ‘When will the Democrats start blaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, instead of their own incompetence for the voting disaster that just happened in the Great State of Iowa?’, he tweeted. Tonight, Trump will get to give his State of the Union address, and tomorrow he will most likely be acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial. He will be the news, not the Democrats.

It’s not that Trump is some master politician – far from it. Trump is a bumbling amateur. The Democrats’ case against Trump should be based, at least in part, on his ineffectiveness in government. But the Democrats’ own ineptness and over-reactions to Trump keep driving people back towards him. The debacle in Iowa stings because it appears to symbolise a broader Democratic incompetence.

Of course, there is still plenty of time before November for Trump to self-destruct. But, at this point in time, none of the Democratic candidates looks capable of beating him.

Sean Collins is a writer based in New York. Visit his blog, The American Situation.

Picture by: Getty.

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Quentin Vole

7th February 2020 at 5:51 pm

Interesting parallels between the candidates for the Democratic presidential bid in the US and those for Labour leader in the UK. In both cases they are trying to select from a bunch of clueless nonentities, to determine who will lose against Trump/Boris in the next election.

Forlorn Dream

5th February 2020 at 1:23 pm

‘The scripts write themselves for the Trump staff.’ It’s a good job they do as the staff are probably too busy laughing. The Democrats are the gift that just won’t stop giving.

Jerry Owen

5th February 2020 at 11:56 am

I wonder what Wendy Kaminer has to say… probably she’ll start with .. some Nazi’s are ‘very fine people’ he once said…

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Jerry Owen

5th February 2020 at 10:27 am

And so at the end of the SOTU speech Pelosi standing right behind the POTUS in full view of millions of people, rips up her copy of his speech into a dozen pieces and throws it down on the table.
Trump is pure genius, he makes his opponents unelectable.

Jerry Owen

5th February 2020 at 11:53 am

I said earlier that he was no genius, but having seen what Pelosi did I have changed my mind. He has a genius streak to him.

Ven Oods

5th February 2020 at 9:35 am

The Democrats come over like a bunch of low-hanging chads.
Biden in particular: he makes noises like a seasoned politician, but looks more like an athlete whose legs and lungs have long stopped working properly.
All of this with Hillary still sniping from the sidelines. Priceless!

Paul Duffin

5th February 2020 at 9:32 am

I’ve heard that the company Shadow, which was responsible for the breakage, has ties to Pete Buttegieg. If true, that’s a bit more important than yet another pointless jab at Trump.

Michael Lynch

5th February 2020 at 8:43 am

You can hardly call a man with no prior experience of the American political scene a bumbler when he has negotiated the ridiculous slurs and hurdles from the opposition and has still come out on top. The economy booms, there has been no war and he has managed to bring rogue states to heal with his non appeasement approach. The worst you can accuse Trump of is that he is inarticulate and does not put on the slick salesman approach we are used to from the POTUS; he is simply not a good actor. I also wish he’d stop using Twitter. However, he’ll wipe the floor with the Democrats in the Presidential election and will probably increase his vote share. If only the Democrats had not spent the last 4 years on an absurd witch hunt; what a pathetic waste of time.

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5th February 2020 at 12:20 am

The app was hacked by Russians on the orders of Trump. Just so that Spiked can gloat.

Dominic Straiton

4th February 2020 at 8:58 pm

Who cares. Trumps lapdogs go off barking over there. yap yap yap yap. Over here hes confronting China. WOOF WOOF WOOF. Its all that matters at the mo.

Jerry Owen

4th February 2020 at 8:50 pm

‘Trump is a bumbling amateur’.. had to get that in there .. feel better?
A man who has increased the economy, made America self sufficient for fossil fuel, doesn’t believe in climate catastrophe, hasn’t felt the need to go to war.
The man is a breath of fresh air, a man who is anti globalist.
Trump is a catalyst for populism.. something that even Brendan acknowledges.
Trump imploding is just a fantasy, the man is several steps ahead of even the smartest Democrat.. they are a joke. Trump will get another four years in the White House.

Chris Dixon

4th February 2020 at 9:44 pm

I agree that Trump is no bumbling amateur. I think Tom Barrack described Trump accurately as an improvisational genius in business. That doesn’t mean his every business or political move has been or will be genius, but his free-form style has served him well and defeated all comers. Most politicians are incapable of thinking on their feet.

Jerry Owen

5th February 2020 at 7:50 am

Chris Dixon
Agree with your post. Trump is one of the few people in politics that’s spent most of his life not in politics but the ‘real’ world. This is what’s given him what appears to me to be sound sensible policy on so many issues. Look at our shower very few have seen life outside of uni and Westminster.
He’s no genius as you say which says more about the quality of his opposition than him.
This is a man that hasn’t taken a dollars wage from the taxpayer in four years, how many others can say that?

Jim Lawrie

4th February 2020 at 8:14 pm

“It’s not that Trump is some master politician – far from it. Trump is a bumbling amateur.” You just cannot resist, can you? His son could win in 2024 and you would still think it relevant to proclaim yourself Donald’s intellectual and moral superior. I know of no field of human endeavour that is furthered by looking down your nose at someone whose help you need.

Brandy Cluster

4th February 2020 at 9:00 pm

And they’re never – repeat never – smart enough to understand why their people don’t get up. I think IQ tests should be compulsory before voting so that everybody is as clever as Democrats and their supporters. That’s fair.

Just feel the hatred from the supposedly compassionate Left who supports Democrats. Actually, it’s completely priceless hypocrisy!!!

Jim Lawrie

5th February 2020 at 10:59 am

Sean Collins seems to be Wendy Kaminer in drag.

The mention of IQ tests provokes in lefties the same response as in a cat about to have a bath.

nick hunt

4th February 2020 at 7:57 pm

‘Trump is a bumbling amateur’ but ‘over-reactions to Trump keep driving people back towards him’. He’s just a lucky moron, and so his moronic voters won’t abandon him! This is the kind of absurd, sneering, ignorant, self-contradictory over-reaction we expect from bigoted elitists at Salon, the Daily Beast or the Guardian.

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