Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden talk after being counted during an Iowa Democratic caucus at Hoover High School, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
The major story coming out of Iowa, of course, is the utter goat-rope that the Democrats have managed to make of what was, until yesterday, a fairly well established process. In fact, the process may be so corrupted by ineptitude (being charitable here and not assuming this was designed to torpedo Sanders) that we may never know the actual vote count. The real story, however, may lie somewhere else.
President Trump was running essentially unopposed. There were two Vichy Republicans, former congressman and former talk show host Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, running against him. Their real strategy was to energize both of their supporters to show up for the caucuses while counting on a very light showing from rank-and-file GOP voters. This would let them establish a narrative that their campaigns were not just something dreamed up in the offices of The Bulwark and funded by progressives, but, rather, represented a major revolt inside the GOP to the idea of a second Trump term.
This was not an unreasonable hope. The last time the GOP had an uncontested primary, 2004, some 8,000 voters showed up for the GOP caucuses. This year GOP turnout was just over 32,000 free citizens. By way of comparison, the last time the Democrats had an real competitive primary, 2008, some 240,000 voters showed up. Last night’s attendance seems to have been on par with the coronation of Queen Hillary in 2016. Together they managed to pull in barely 3% of the total votes.
CNN notes, if you are predisposed to believe them, that while the Democrats had a 7-point enthusiasm advantage going into 2018, that has now flipped to a 7-point GOP advantage.
To me there are two takeaways here.
First and foremost, the NeverTrump Vichy Republican candidates are dead in the water. This was as favorable an environment that they are going to encounter in the primaries. The fact is that if all of their voters had showed up (about 966 statewide votes were against Trump) and the turnout had looked like 2004, they still would have been curb stomped.
Second, the Democrat rank and file are not fired up about their choices. And in an election where they need something like 2008 turnout rates to beat Trump, that doesn’t look to be materializing.