Iowa caucuses: What to expect from the 2020 Democratic candidates

The Democratic field has gone from more than two dozen to just 11 candidates. Who will come out on top in Iowa?

Iowa caucus
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg's shadow is cast on the Iowas state flag as he speaks during a campaign event [Matt Rourke/AP Photo]

Des Moines, Iowa – Since the day after the 2016 presidential election, Democrats have looked to 2020, hoping Donald Trump will be just a one-term president. 

At one point, there were more than two dozen candidates. Now there are just 11. 

After all the rallies, all the debates and many political moments, the voters in Iowa are set to kick off the start of the caucus and primary season in an election season that will take the United States all the way to November.  

I have been following the Democratic race closely, and have spent the last several days in Iowa. Bearing in mind this state is always capable of throwing up a surprise, here is how the candidates who are running may finish in the Iowa caucus on Monday night.

Michael Bennet

A senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet is a name unfamiliar to most voters in Iowa. Bennet is a moderate who believes in compromise, but many expect his lacklustre campaign to end in the days after Iowa. 

Michael BennetDemocratic presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennet [File: Mary Altaffer/The Associated Press]

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden has played up his ties to former President Barack Obama who was a surprise winner in Iowa 12 years ago. An early frontrunner – Biden has seen his support dip in the past few weeks.  

But he still remains among the top-tier candidates in Iowa, according to recent polling.

Iowa caucusDemocratic 2020 US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden [File: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Popular with working-class voters, this is his third run for the White House. Expect Biden to finish in the top three. 

It is important to remember that Democrats have nominated three vice presidents to run since World War II. All three have lost.  

Pete Buttigieg 

Pete Buttigieg’s experience in office may be only as a small-town mayor in South Bend, Indiana, but the youngest of all the candidates at the age of 38, he has talked about motivating a new generation of Democratic and American voters. 

Buttigieg has raised a heap of money and has been able to campaign across the state while Senators have been tied up with the impeachment trial in Washington, DC. 

 Pete ButtigiegUS Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg [File: Steve Marcus/Reuters]

Anything outside of a top-four finish puts his campaign on life support and he would need a great result in the New Hampshire primary next week to survive.

Tulsi Gabbard 

Tulsi Gabbard, a US representative from Hawaii, has had very little presence in Iowa. She opposes US military intervention abroad, but she has drawn criticism for meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  

She is unlikely to come in the top seven, but many believe she may launch a third-party run which could take votes away from the eventual Democratic nominee. 

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard speaks during the fourth U.S. Democratic presidential candidates 2020 election debate in Westerville, OhioDemocratic presidential candidate Representative Tulsi Gabbard [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Amy Klobuchar 

A senator from neighbouring Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar believes she can appeal to voters across the country by promoting her pragmatic “Midwest” values.  Her poll numbers have slowly crept up over the past few weeks, giving supporters the chance to claim she has “Klo-mentum”.  If she can finish fourth, it will be as good as a win for her campaign and would keep her in the race.

Iowa KlobucharDemocratic 2020 US presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar [File: Brenna Norman/Reuters]

Deval Patrick

A former Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick has made next to no impact in Iowa – or elsewhere for that matter. Many expect him to drop out on Tuesday. 

Deval Patrick Former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Deval Patrick [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

Bernie Sanders 

Bernie Sanders is an independent senator from Vermont who describes himself as a Democratic socialist. He came in second – behind Hillary Clinton – in Iowa four years ago. It was, however, the closest margin the Iowa Democratic caucuses had ever seen.

Iowa caucus Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

Sanders has strong grassroots support and a good organisation. There are some Democrats who worry whether someone who wants to introduce universal healthcare, free college tuition and curtail the influence of billionaires can actually win a general election, but supporters insist this is an election about change and Sanders is the man to deliver. He will likely place in the top three. 

Tom Steyer

Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer has the money to stay in the race long after more popular candidates drop out, but he will be lucky not to finish in the bottom three.

Tom SteyerDemocratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen Climate Action [File: Stephen Lam/Reuters]

Elizabeth Warren 

Senator Elizabeth Warren often talks about big structural change and income equality. Other campaigns admit the Massachusetts senator has built a formidable operation on the ground in Iowa and that could be the key to her doing better than many suspect. Other candidates in recent days have been nipping away at her support but she could be headed for a top-three finish. 

WarrenDemocratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren [File: Steve Marcus/Reuters]

Andrew Yang 

Andrew Yang is a former tech executive who has talked about introducing a universal basic income. His support has not gone close to double figures. He likely will not finish last, but the best he can hope for is sixth place in Iowa.

Andrew YangDemocratic presidential candidate entrepreneur Andrew Yang [File: Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press]

Michael Bloomberg  

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is skipping early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, focusing his attention on Super Tuesday (March 3). 

Normally that would kill a campaign because it would struggle to raise funds.  But the multi-billionaire is funding his own White House bid.  

Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg speaks during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des MoinesFormer New York City Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg [File: Scott Morgan/Reuters]

Bloomberg will reportedly be in California, a Super Tuesday state, on Monday instead.  

A thing you will often hear is: “Iowa isn’t first because it’s important, it’s important because it’s first.”  It gives the first real indication of how the voters are thinking, whose policies they support, who they believe can challenge Trump. 

A good performance here generates publicity, often brings more support and crucially, helps with fundraising. You do not have to win in Iowa to be a winner. But you can lose the White House here, too. 

Source: Al Jazeera