Iowa caucus rules might allow for more than one 'winner'

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 17 days until the Iowa caucuses and 291 days until the 2020 presidential election.

Forecast for Iowa caucus results: Cloudy

Two weeks from Monday, Iowans will gather for the quadrennial caucuses, the first primary contest of the 2020 presidential election. Polling has shown a relatively tight four-way race at the top, and a new method of reporting results could give multiple campaigns the ability to claim a win.

Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg take the stage before the Democratic primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

On Feb. 3, three separate numbers will be relayed to the public: Who had the most votes at the beginning of the night, who had the most votes at the end of the night when the caucusing was complete, and the number of state delegate equivalents won by each candidate. (State delegate equivalents are the number of delegates each candidate will have at the party’s state convention in June.) In previous years, only the number of delegates was released. The system in place this year means that more than one candidate could claim a win (without even counting the runners-up who might declare that a narrow loss counts as a moral victory).

Local officials and the Democratic National Committee are stressing that delegates are the only thing that matters.

A sign directs Democratic caucus-goers to the home of Gary and Mary Weaver in Rippey, Iowa, in 2016. (Photo: Nick Oxford/Reuters)

“This is a contest for delegates,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price told the Associated Press. “Campaigns will highlight whatever number is the most advantageous for them. But in the end, what matters is the delegates that come out of Iowa to the national convention, and [state delegates] will remain the best indicator of that.”

The caucus process is as follows: Voters write their first preference on a card, and the precinct counts up the totals for each candidate. Those with less than 15 percent of the vote are eliminated, and their supporters must select someone still in the running in the second and final round, which determines how delegates are apportioned. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 49.8 percent of state delegate equivalents, to 49.6 percent for Bernie Sanders. Sanders supporters claimed there was reason to suspect that he had actually won the raw-vote total in the state.

The caucuses have been criticized as undemocratic for requiring voters to be present for an evening meeting that can run to several hours, a potential hardship for those with disabilities, conflicting work schedules or young children. February weather in Iowa can keep voters, especially in rural areas, from participating. Proposals to allow caucus voting by phone in Iowa and Nevada were quashed last year by the DNC.

Chief Justice John Roberts swears in members of the Senate for the impeachment trial against President Trump on Thursday. (Photo: Senate Television via AP)

With impeachment jury duty looming, senators swarm campaign trail  

The schedule for President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial has thrown a wrench into the Democratic primary, as four candidates for the nomination — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet — must sit as jurors for six days a week while the rest of the field is free to campaign.

The trial, which resumes Tuesday, is expected to last beyond the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, which means there are just six open days left for the senators to campaign on the ground before the first contest of the 2020 presidential cycle.

And they're wasting little time. Warren has at least seven campaign events scheduled in Iowa over the next three days, beginning with a town hall Friday afternoon in Newton.

Klobuchar is making nine campaign stops in the state, including four on Saturday alone: an appearance at the Iowa State Education Association Forum in West Des Moines followed by town halls in Coralville, Clinton and Davenport.

Sanders will travel to South Carolina on Monday to participate in Martin Luther King Day events. He’ll then fly to Des Moines for an appearance at the Iowa Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum. Warren, Klobuchar and Bennet are also scheduled to speak at that event.

Bennet is holding a pair of “meet and greets” Monday — one at a coffeehouse in Grinnell and the other at a Muscatine brewery.

After a weekend of barnstorming Iowa, the four candidates are required to be back inside the Senate chamber at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday for impeachment jury duty.

On Twitter, Trump said he felt bad for Sanders and accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and establishment Democrats of scheduling the trial to hurt the Vermont senator’s chances.

“They are rigging the election again against Bernie Sanders, just like last time, only even more obviously,” the president tweeted. “They are bringing him out of so important Iowa in order that, as a Senator, he sit through the Impeachment Hoax Trial. Crazy Nancy thereby gives the strong edge to Sleepy Joe Biden, and Bernie is shut out again. Very unfair, but that’s the way the Democrats play the game. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to watch!”

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders exchange words while Tom Steyer looks on after Tuesday's Democratic primary debate. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Billionaire watch 2020

With the withdrawal of Sen. Cory Booker, there are now more billionaires — two — running for the Democratic nomination than there are black people. The lone remaining African-American, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, has not made a dent in any polling after launching his campaign in November. But the two super-wealthy candidates, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, are following different paths in their attempts to secure the nomination.

Steyer joined five other Democratic candidates on the debate stage Tuesday night and had no real breakout moment, unless you count his getting in the middle of a tense exchange between Sanders and Warren as the event was ending.

CNN released audio of the confrontation Wednesday.

“I don’t want to get in the middle,” Steyer could be heard saying. “I just want to say hi, Bernie.”

“Yeah, good, OK,” replied the Vermont senator.

After the audio was released, Steyer tweeted, “Just want to say hi, America.” 

Last week Steyer’s campaign received some good news, with polls showing him in the top three in both Nevada and South Carolina, two states where he has spent millions on advertising, essentially dominating the television market. This week didn’t bring any further positive polls, with one survey of Nevada putting him in a tie for fourth place with 8 percent and national polls showing him in the low single digits.

Bloomberg is still ignoring the earliest states, focusing on the delegate-rich Super Tuesday environment on March 3. This week his campaign announced that it now employs over 1,000 staffers, a quick and massive buildup fueled by the former New York City mayor’s $32 billion fortune. Bloomberg has promised to keep the organization in place through November’s general election even if he fails to win the nomination, using it as a shadow campaign/super-PAC equivalent for the eventual Democratic nominee to use against Trump.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg launched his Women for Mike campaign wing in New York, telling Yahoo News’ Kadia Tubman, “I got the right values to get them.” Bloomberg has a reputation for making crude comments about women over the years. At least 17 women sued his eponymous media company for allegedly permitting a sexist working environment. Regarding the comments he made in the past, a Bloomberg spokesperson said in November, “Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar after announcing her run for president at a rally in Minneapolis last February. (Photo: Star Tribune)

2020 voting officially begins

While Iowans don’t gather for another 17 days, the first voters of the 2020 presidential election entered their selections Friday morning across the Hawkeye State’s northern border. Early voting started at 8 a.m. CT in Minnesota in that state’s presidential primaries, which will be held on March 3. Minnesotans had the option of mailing in an absentee ballot or showing up in person to enter their vote 46 days before the state’s polls officially close.

To commemorate the early voting, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is holding an event Friday evening with Gov. Tim Walz and fellow Sen. Tina Smith. The Sanders campaign was represented in the state by Rep. Ilhan Omar, who kicked off early voting with a morning “get out the vote” rally in Minneapolis. The Democratic ballot in Minnesota lists 15 candidates, including some who recently dropped out. 

The Star Tribune spoke spoke to Warren supporter Davis Senseman, who camped out in a rented RV in the Minneapolis Early Voting Center parking lot Thursday night.

“I was talking with my 11-year-old and I said, ‘Should I try to be the first voter in the nation, in the whole United States?’” Senseman said. “He said, ‘Well, yeah, absolutely you should.’”

Minnesota hasn’t been polled since early November, when results showed Warren leading with 25 percent, followed by Klobuchar with 15, Biden with 14 and Sanders with 13.

[Who’s running for president? Click here for Yahoo News’ 2020 tracker]

Verbatim

“I think you called me a liar on national TV.”

— Elizabeth Warren to Bernie Sanders after Tuesday’s debate in Iowa, during which he disputed her account of a private conversation in 2018 in which she claims he told her a woman could not win the presidency

“You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion. ... You called me a liar.”

— Sanders to Warren

“I don’t believe Bernie said that. I really don’t. It’s not the kind of thing he would say.”

— President Trump at a rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday, siding with Sanders in the feud

“Sanders and Warren, as well as their campaigns and supporters, will need to find ways to cooperate.”

— A statement from leading progressive groups released the next day calling for a truce between the candidates

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