The 50 State Strategy Series: Part 2 Iowa And The Midwest

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First post in the series is here:

A day ago I posted an overview of a strategy for candidates with lots of resources and high name recognition to short circuit the primary system and leap ahead of smaller and less well known candidates. Every day I'm going to post a new piece on a regional aspect of that plan. Jump below the break for the less general and more detailed information.

In 2015 Bernie Sanders informally announced for the presidency on April 30, 2015. By May first he had raised 1.5 million dollars. In March he had been polling at 3% of the country. People were still trying to draft Biden or Warren. Bernie Sanders spent 50 days in Iowa and 50 days in New Hampshire over the course of the 2016 campaign. This was critical to building national name recognition and fueling the "momentum" narrative. People are obsessed with the over-engineered idea that a candidate who wins Iowa and New Hampshire always wins the presidential primary. What about winning New Hampshire by 20% and losing Iowa by 0.2%? Does that 0.2% make a fundamental difference? What you don't hear as a caveat is that of course sometimes one person doesn't win both and someone still wins the primary.

Let's establish some facts about delegate rules in the Democratic primary. You need to have a minimum of 15% of the vote at a particular caucus in Iowa to receive any delegates. Candidates in a caucus who receive less than 15% of the vote are interesting. Caucus members may move to another candidate or not, at their discretion. Candidates often play games, moving extra supporters to stand with candidates they hope to ally later, thus preventing wasted votes. In open and closed primaries you still need 15% of the delegates but you can't realign. Votes are wasted for candidates not passing the threshold. The key to winning is never to allow yourself, as Hillary Clinton did in Vermont in 2016, to receive less than 15% of the vote and be shut out.

Bernie Sanders has extremely high nationwide name recognition and its even higher in Iowa. He has a floor in nearly every state of 15%. Because Iowa is a mostly white and partly Hispanic Midwestern state his floor is likely higher. We would expect him to get a minimum of 15% and like for Iowa as much as 25-40%. It's relevant to note that under the 15% rule you can't allocated delegates to more than 6 candidates. Iowa had 44 delegates in 2016. They went 23-21 Sanders/Hillary. Bernie will get a maximum of 18 delegates this time around, remember Hillary's 2016 effort taught us you can't smother candidates in the cradle in Iowa, or New Hampshire. Voters there are inured to shock and awe from money and prominent surrogates and they enjoy backing the little guy, especially New Hampshire. The difference between 40% and and 15% is 11 delegates, 18 vs 7. To hit 18 Bernie would have to go all in compared to getting to something in the middle like 11.

Following the post-election reviews of the data, which many people were unaware of, momentum was not a significant factor. Sanders tied in Iowa, won decisively in New Hampshire, was wiped out in South Carolina, came back to a tie in Nevada, and then after Super Tuesday Sanders was down 587 to 397 pledged delegates. Clinton was at 59.5% of pledged delegates on the day after Super Tuesday. While the total shifted up and down a bit with 20% of all delegates already awarded Clinton kept her lead till the end. The Michigan Miracle, the greatest primary poll miss of all time, at least in modern history, did not disrupt this trend. The Myth of Momentum was dead.

What counted was primarily demographics, Sanders outperformed in favorable states, especially those with a caucus and under performed in unfavorable ones. Secondly what counted was resources expended in a state. Many states at unfortunate spots on the primary calendar received little to no money or candidate attention and were often relatively close. Missouri and Illinois for example were nearly ties with Clinton winning both by 1.5%. To be clear, Iowa had 44 delegates and New Hampshire had 24. Missouri had 71! Illinois had 156! What does this mean for us? As supporters of a candidate who no longer has to scratch and crawl into the national consciousness, Iowa and New Hampshire are of minimal importance. Whether Bernie comes first or second, with 11 delegates or 18, it doesn't matter.

Bernie raised approximately 73 million dollars in the three quarters of 2015. He got 33 million in Q3 and 26 million in Q2. That leaves 14 million for Q2. If he announces in early February I think he can break that first 14 million dollar total before Q2 of 2019 starts. Its very possible he could get more than 100 million Clinton got in 2015. Meanwhile no other candidate, even Beto and Biden, have comparable fundraising options. Bernie spent 50 days in Iowa from 5/2015 to 2/2016. So what can Bernie do with 50 days of campaigning? Or likely even more since Turtle Mitch has the Senate in limbo refusing to let House bills come to the floor. Bernie can go to states that everyone ignores, where every dollar and every candidate event goes farther.

This post is about Iowa. Aside from the 50 days he spent in Iowa in the 2016 primaries Sanders spent about 7.4 million on ads. He spent perhaps twice that on staff and offices and other Iowa related activities. Sanders raised 228 million dollars from 2015 to December 31st, 2016 according to OpenSecrets. He spent 223 million of that. That means that according to the data I looked at Bernie spent 10% of his total fundraising on a state worth approximately 1% of all pledged delegates. According to the limited available data Sanders spent an equivalent amount of money in New Hampshire and he also spent 50 days there. New Hampshire is worth something like 0.5% of all delegates. Yet Sanders spent 20% of his cash, and a higher percentage of his time, in these states. And again each dollar and each visit is worth less in these highly politically saturated states where campaign attack ads and Super Pac smear campaigns flood the air waves.

In 2020, when Sanders could potentially raise an additional 50 million between the start of the campaign and the first two primaries, what could he do with this money? Note that Sanders spent approximately 60% of all his fundraising from the start of the campaign until the New Hampshire primary in just these two states. Somewhere around 40 out of 73 million dollars.

Taking our updated estimate of 30 million dollars and perhaps 70 days of campaigning that would be proportional to the time and money previously expended in Iowa, I propose that Bernie Sanders could visit 7 Midwestern states where he tied or won, which are favorable to him, and totaling about 8 times the delegates of Iowa, who receive little to no political spending relative to other states: Missouri(71), Kansas(33), Nebraska(25), Oklahoma(38), Minnesota(77), Wisconsin(86), and Arkansas(32). 10 days and ~5 million dollars spend in these states prior to the Iowa primary would be a huge boost. When you go up on the air with positive adds for months before any of your opponents you gain a powerful resistance to negative adds which often backfire on the people putting them out. Especially in states that are very friendly to Bernie demographically and mostly politically. Also, Sanders/Trump voters in these states who voted in the Republican primaries last time because they believed Bernie would get screwed by the DNC have no alternative as the Republicans don't have a primary this time around. On top of this local news will be all over Sanders campaigning in these states so that's free advertising. Finally when a candidate steps into the voting booth on election day and thinks about potential candidates they will remember who showed up a week before election day and who focused on their state. In states where one of the options is a local Senator this becomes even more powerful. Nearly all the votes not going to Bernie would go to a single person and anyone who isn't a big fan of the local candidate would be guided towards Bernie as a sort of protest vote.

These 7 states comprise 362 delegates or 9% of the total. Winning even a small majority of the delegates put Sanders at 10% of his total. And based on his 2016 performance and his potential opponents, he could well do better than that if he shows these states some love. Meanwhile he will barely lose anything by spending only minimal time in Iowa. These are all also states that tend to vote red or swung hard to Trump in 2016. Democrats would normally expect to win many of these states. Obama lost to McCain in Missouri, my home state, by 1%.

Also relevant, not only do you juice voter potential but you increase the number, quality, and enthusiasm of volunteers who rarely get to feel relevant. I spent more time campaigning in Iowa in 2016 than I did in Missouri. I met a man in Iowa who attended over 800 presidential rallies in his life time, over 100 candidates over 40 years. A typical 60 year old in Missouri may have met a candidate 4 or 5 times. And a hard core politico, perhaps 40 or 50.

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SandersForPresident: search results – self:yes

The key to winning Iowa in 2020 “Democrats & frustrated independent farmers losing a buck on every bushel of soybeans they harvest because of President Trump’s trade wars… Bernie Sanders packed them in at ISU for Scholten, together they campaigned for Medicare-for-all and got cheers”

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The key to winning Iowa in 2020 "Democrats & frustrated independent farmers losing a buck on every bushel of soybeans they harvest because of President Trump’s trade wars... Bernie Sanders packed them in at ISU for Scholten, together they campaigned for Medicare-for-all and got cheers" submitted by /u/Chartis
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SandersForPresident: search results – bernie

When does door knocking and on the ground presidential campaigning begin in a state like Iowa?

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Long story short, there is a strong likelihood that I will live in one of two places in the summer and fall of 2019 and one of them is Iowa. Since it seems like Bernie will announce his 2020 run relatively early in 2019 if not sooner, and the Iowa caucus is in February or late January; I am wondering when the need for local volunteers to do door knocking, pamphleting, and events at places like country fairs etc, actually begins.

Aside from things like phone banking, when do we start doing things on the ground as volunteers and not as paid full time campaign staff members? It might sound like a silly question but here in California we did all kinds of grassroots tablings at county fairs, freeway overpasses, local community events, etc, and that was way before our actual primary started (and thank God Governor Brown moved it sooner up).

Is there a similar culture in Iowa, pre-Caucus time? I suppose my main worry is that perhaps there is an unwritten rule about when it is "too early" to start campaigning in a politics heavy state like Iowa. When, if any time, is it too soon to do campaigning for Bernie in Iowa after he announces?

Thanks for answering my questions and have a lovely day. Feel the Bern!!!

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SandersForPresident: search results – self:yes