The Iowa caucus has finally, officially confirmed today that Pete Buttigieg is the winner. At this late date, does it even matter? Not necessarily. But it does shut down one narrative rather definitively, even as Buttigieg heads into a far bigger test – and no, we’re not talking about tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary.
For starters, this means the most deranged of Iowa caucus conspiracy theories are now officially dead. The conspiracy theorists have spent the past week insisting that Pete Buttigieg somehow had enough control over the Iowa caucus vote recording app to make sure it didn’t work right, thus delaying the announcement that he lost. But if Pete somehow magically had this kind of control over things, wouldn’t he have just rigged the results such that he was immediately named the winner? In fact, now that we know Buttigieg was the Iowa caucus winner, it means he’s the one who got screwed by the flaky app, because the media could have spent all week talking about how he’s the winner, instead of how he merely maybe won.
But baseless conspiracy theories never do make any sense to anyone who applies logic to them. Meanwhile back in the real world, Buttigieg is heading into the New Hampshire primary vote tomorrow, where he’ll likely either finish in a close first or a close second. Considering where expectations were for his campaign a week ago, does it really matter if he finishes in first or second? The media is going to continue talking about his “momentum” one way or the other.
The trouble is that in these early primary states, “momentum” doesn’t exist. It’s not about that. It’s about voting demographics. Next week the Democratic primary race will shift to Nevada, where Hispanic Democrats get to vote in large numbers for the first time. Then it’s on to South Carolina, where Black Democrats get to vote in large numbers for the first time. Pete Buttigieg is polling 14 points off the lead in Nevada, and 20 points off the lead in South Carolina. He’ll have to do far better than that with nonwhite voters if he wants the nomination. It’s the latest reminder that Iowa and New Hampshire simply don’t tell us much.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report