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Election 2020: How will Iowa impact the results?

This news story was published on July 30, 2020.
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Iowa’s place in all US general elections, past and present, is hardly understated. Traditionally, from 1972 onwards, it’s here where voting begins. The Iowa caucus system has been a political barometer at election time for coming close to 50 years. 

It’s clear that political pundits and sources will be looking to Iowa first to see who has the best chance of being President until 2024. But do voters conduct any research about the politics of the parties before going to the voting booth? Many of the more politically aware voters research using the No Labels website. There they can find unbiased comment and the promotion of ideas rather than content that serves the interests of individual politicians.

The history of the Iowa caucuses is fascinating. It revolves around new processes brought in by the McGovern-Fraser Commission in the late 1960s, as a greater push to make political nominations public knowledge quickly mounted. It meant a rapid overhaul of much of the way states process their candidates and make their choices. As Iowa’s processes tended to be lengthier than most states, they were granted the first slot on the new caucus slate.

But all these years on, how exactly will Iowa help us to understand who’s making their way to the White House? Why might the caucuses in Iowa be a crucial barometer for us heading towards November?

Intriguing statistics

Those who believe in a little bit of political superstition will likely put a fair bit of weight behind Iowa. After all, as Iowan voters ‘go first’ when it comes to nominations, it’s easy for many to assume that other states will follow suit and may even find the results influential.

There is also the fact that some statistics regarding the Iowa caucuses are very intriguing indeed. For example, both George W Bush and Barack Obama went on to win two terms as President thanks to big successes at the caucuses. Donald Trump changed the game slightly by actually losing Iowa, only to go on and claim the nomination later.

Hype, hype, hype

One of the reasons why Iowa tends to fuel political speculation – and maybe even voter behavior – so much is the fact that there is unbelievable hype. For your average politics enthusiast in the US, the Iowa caucuses are akin to the Super Bowl. It’s the first step on the long journey towards picking a President.

For that reason, the media goes wild for Iowa in the early months of a political year. It also means that political candidates will invest huge campaign dollars in appealing to Iowans than they may do with other states. It is a fascinating phenomenon as it completely insists on and revolves around itself. It is self-perpetuating.

What makes 2020 so different?

You only have to consider the way the world is changing through 2020, a year of incredible challenge and devastation for many people, to understand that the political playing field is going to change altogether by the time November rolls around.

Consider the results of the Iowa caucuses for the Democrats. Pete Buttigieg led the way ahead of Bernie Sanders. Neither candidate would go on to claim the nomination and, in fact, Buttigieg would not even make the final three. Joe Biden, meanwhile, who will all but go to the polls against Donald Trump this November, came in fourth place.

Political action this year has evolved and pivoted in ways that are, on paper, extremely bizarre. In a world where we must stand apart, wear masks and, where possible, work from home, the energy of Presidential election trails from decades past has changed massively. Trump, instead of throwing himself into election fever, appears to continue juggling his takes on the COVID-19 crisis, claiming the ire of the media (and a declining approval rating) in the meantime.

Rallies are evolving. Biden will be canvassing virtually, having advised he would not be holding physical rallies in light of the coronavirus. Trump, too, has started to cancel physical rallies, despite standing firm on that until very recently.

What happens next?

Unfortunately, this year, we may not be able to depend quite so much on the Iowa caucuses as we have in previous years. COVID-19 has, of course, changed so much in the political sphere, as well as on a global scale. With the election only a few months away, the pressure is mounting as to just how Trump and Biden will spin this highly dramatic year in their own directions.

The Iowa caucus may tell us that Buttigieg and Sanders may have held their own on the main political stage this year. However, Biden’s surprise surge towards the end of the nomination process for the Democrats shows that anything could happen.

2020 remains a hugely unpredictable year, and we will simply need to wait and see how virtual rallies and canvassing go in the months to come. With some counties in Iowa switching from Obama to Trump at the last election, will the incumbent hold firm?

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