- The Des Moines Register, Iowa's largest and most influential newspaper, unveiled its endorsement of Sen. Elizabeth Warren ahead of the state's caucus on February 3.
- "She is a thinker, a policy wonk and a hard worker," the paper's editorial board wrote. "At this moment, when the very fabric of American life is at stake, Elizabeth Warren is the president this nation needs."
- The Register said that its five-person editorial board interviewed nine current Democratic candidates for consideration to receive the paper's endorsement for the caucuses.
- For weeks, polls have shown the top four candidates, Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg closely bunched together with no obvious frontrunner going into the caucuses.
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The Register said that its five-person editorial board interviewed nine current Democratic candidates for consideration to receive the paper's endorsement for the caucuses. They wrote that the "outstanding caliber" of the Democratic field hard to come to a single decision about who to endorse, and further highlighted the positive qualities of many other candidates.
In endorsing Warren, the paper rejected the premise laid out by some of Warren's critics that her ideas are too "radical" for America today, noting that she was a registered Republican until the 1990s and fundamentally believes in capitalism.
In the endorsement, the Register said many of her bold ideas to bring structural change to the American economy, including establishing universal healthcare and childcare and reducing the power of large corporations, "are not radical. they are right. They would improve life in America, and they are generally shared by the other Democratic candidates."
They said that while Warren is "tough and fearless," she is sure to run up against barriers in the course of implementing her agenda. The board wrote that "to gain the support required to govern, she must show that her vision will lift people up rather than divide them."
The board ultimately argued: "We need a president who understands that the American dream itself is at risk: the ideal that someone who works hard and plays by the rules can get ahead, and that their children will do even better. With Warren, the Oval Office will be occupied by someone who has made rebuilding the middle class her life's work."
—Iowa Starting Line (@IAStartingLine) January 26, 2020
Historically, Iowa has played a significant role in the primary by virtue of being the state going first in the process, despite holding just 1% of the total pledged delegates which will be allocated throughout the Democratic primary cycle.
The editorial board previously emphasized that its main goal was to "illuminate" the candidates' "strengths and weaknesses," not "dictating to Iowans how they should vote" or "aiming to predict the outcome."
The Register's endorsement has not been a historically accurate predictor of the Iowa caucus winner or Democratic nominee. As Politico correspondent Ryan Lizza pointed out on Sunday, only one of the last six Democratic candidates the Register's editorial board endorsed between 1988 and 2016 went on to win the state's caucuses.
For weeks, Real Clear Politics' and FiveThirtyEight's polling averages have shown the top four candidates, Vice President Joe Biden, Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg closely bunched together with no obvious frontrunner going into the caucuses.
While Warren's poll numbers in Iowa have consistently declined over the past few months, she has recently polled near and even within the margin of the error of leading candidates. She is also cited in many surveys as caucusgoers' top second choice, including in a New York Times/Siena College survey of Iowa also released on Saturday.
Caucusgoers' second-choice picks are especially important because in the Iowa caucuses, every precinct holds not one but two rounds of preference expression, or alignments, to determine which candidates break through the 15% viability threshold to earn delegates from a given district.
If a caucusgoer's first-choice candidate doesn't break 15% of the vote on the first alignment, they can either switch their preference to a candidate who is viable in their precinct, be an uncommitted caucusgoer, or try to combine forces with other caucusgoers to make their first-choice candidate viable.
For some candidates, like President Barack Obama in 2008, either outright winning or being perceived as the Iowa winner has been a make-or-break development for their candidacies. But given the tiny slice of delegates Iowa holds, it's not a must-win state to secure the nomination.
This is especially true for candidates like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who already hold significant support in delegate-rich parts of the country that vote later in the primary process, like the South.
The results of the Iowa caucuses will likely be more important for candidates like Warren, Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar who are going all-in on Iowa and are relying on a strong performance in the state to fuel their campaigns forward.
The Des Moines Register endorsement is the second major newspaper nod Warren has received in the past week. Last week, she was co-endorsed by The New York Times editorial board along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar was also endorsed by another major Iowa newspaper, the Quad-City Times.
Despite the media attention, Klobuchar's poll numbers in Iowa and nationally are still in the mid-single-digits as she continues to trail the four leading candidates, putting her in a dubious position as the caucuses loom.
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