With a strong ground game, Warren could shock the establishment and the progressive wing of the party.
The title already makes this seem like a cop-out of an argument, and it might be. However, the Iowa Caucus is perhaps the most unruly electoral event in American politics, and winning there does not necessarily mean getting the most votes. With that in mind, Elizabeth Warren, despite trailing Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in forecast polls, could perform well enough in Monday’s contest to begin a surge that could carry her to the Democratic party’s nomination for president.
The Washington Post reported in January that Warren’s campaign in Iowa is the most organized and efficient, despite her polling third behind Sanders and Biden. She has invested millions in an ad campaign, and her campaign operates out of 26 offices across the midwestern state of three million people.
Additionally, she received the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, and according to FiveThirtyEight, a poll analytics website, she trails only Vice President Biden in national endorsements after the shuttering of Kamala Harris’s campaign.
Warren has multiple major endorsements and a grassroots effort that has given her a strong ground game in Iowa, but what gives the Massachusetts senator the best shot at winning a majority of the delegates needed for the nomination is her flexibility. If Sanders and Biden have set the ideological goal posts for this primary that every other candidate exists somewhere between, then Warren and Buttigieg have the most room to move around between them in order to sway voters. And that is exactly what both will have to do in Iowa. The caucus system, more than the primary system, requires a candidate’s supporters to sway other voters in favor of their candidate. Warren’s success will likely rest on this, and her recent messaging has given her ground forces in Iowa exactly what they need.
Rob Fischer of The New Yorker argues that Warren has stopped trying to brand herself as the moderate progressive to undercut Sen. Sanders’s numbers in Iowa and that she has instead begun trying to help people see her as the progressive moderate, thus providing a more liberal option then Joe Biden. It seems unlikely that Warren will top the former Vice President’s numbers come Monday, but she stands a very good chance of siphoning votes from both of the front runners while also completely removing Buttigieg from contention. Race and age based demographics favor the ideology of Buttigieg more than Warren, but his inexperience in politics could prove critical in a state that lives for the bi-yearly caucus.
If Warren can prove the forecast polls wrong and leave Iowa with a healthy start of delegates, she may be well on her way to the nomination. In fact, a strong performance in Iowa could dash the electability arguments that have plagued the opinion sections of just about every major American newspaper and provide Warren with the chance to court the larger endorsements that are out of Sander’s reach while promising the kind of structural change to which Biden has yet to commit.
Warren cannot downplay the threat an insurgest Buttigieg campaign poses to her somewhat precarious third place spot. However, if she continues to run like a front-runner by positioning herself as an alternative to the two aging men deemed more likely to win than her, she could very well shock the world.