A week after the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses should have been in the books, they still aren’t. In fact the betting markets are still open, and it remains a tight race between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders.
When the Democratic Party failed to report final results, it turned out that the app used for reporting did not work as intended. Things then took a weird turn when Buttigieg held a victory speech despite the lack of reported results. The gamble paid off, because Buttigieg from then on effectively was treated as the winner in the media, even though that’s still not officially the case.
While the effect on actual delegates gained in Iowa is negligible (Buttigieg will likely win 13 or 14 as opposed to Bernie’s 12 or 13) the image of having won the state very often has a visible effect on the polling in following primaries, as was the case here with Buttigieg for the New Hampshire primary that follows Iowa:
A little later it turned out that the now infamous reporting app was made by a company named Shadow Inc. Both COO James Hickey and CTO Krista Davis were involved in Hillary Clinton’s campaign 2016, but there is more: Buttigieg’s campaign paid Shadow Inc. $42,500 in July 2019.
While corruption isn’t necessarily involved in the whole Iowa debacle, it certainly doesn’t look good from the perspective of the Sanders crowd, who will remember vividly that Hillary Clinton enjoyed unfair advantages in 2016 as well, such as knowing the debate questions beforehand.
The recurring DNC corruption narrative is a theme that Trump has been happy to point out on occasion over the years, as was the case in 2016 election cycle:
Bernie Sanders is being treated very badly by the Democrats - the system is rigged against him. Many of his disenfranchised fans are for me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2016
This narrative coming up again makes it easy for him to make his case over and over, and of course he does:
....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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2020
The tweet above was in response to tying up Senator Sanders in the impeachment proceedings, which certainly was a huge disadvantage in the crucial stages of the campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire. Obviously not just for him, as this also affected Senators Warren and Klobuchar.His two biggest rivals, Biden and Buttigieg, both were indeed free to campaign as they pleased while Senator Sanders was stuck in Washington, DC. This is especially interesting because Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House and a Democrat, could have delivered the impeachment articles to the Senate much earlier than she did.
The DNC on Bernie Sanders, “Looks like they’re going to do it to him again, doesn’t it?” @SteveDoocy @foxandfriends— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2020
Whether or not corruption was involved in Buttigieg's win (that very well still may turn out to be a loss) isn’t overly important – the problem for the Democrats here are the terrible optics, given that it helps to reinforce their already bad image. Trump knows this and happily capitalizes on it.
All of this has created an interesting situation, and gives Trump two ways to win:If Sanders doesn‘t get the nomination, Bernie‘s die-hard base and some independents will see this as evidence of yet more corruption in the Democratic Party and their nomination process. As a result they will stay home or even vote Trump, like in 2016.
And if Sanders wins, Trump gets to run against a self-proclaimed Socialist, which puts him into a great position to win the middle ground in November 2020 as well.