Politics /

The Democratic Iowa primary started off poorly due to a reporting error, including the failure of an app from an organisation literally named Shadow, which sparked anger among the leading presidential candidates. But after a disastrous beginning, the swing state’s caucus has delivered a surprising interim result.

Iowa’s Democratic Party said data from 71 percent of precincts showed South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 26.8 percent, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 25.2 percent. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was third at 18.4 percent, and former vice president Joe Biden fourth at 15.4 percent.

However, it is important to remember that the state party has still not yet declared a winner from Monday’s vote. Many anticipated that Sanders would perform well in Iowa due to his $50 million budget that has dwarfed anything either Buttigieg, Warren or Biden have been able to raise.

Taryn Rosenkranz, founder of the Democratic online fundraising firm New Blue Interactive, told Politico that Democratic donors are going to rally behind the candidate that they think is going to win these primaries, which makes Buttigieg’s victory even more significant.

This is a disappointing start for the Biden camp. The former vice president has a lot of factors going in his favour: he is an experienced politician, he was once Barack Obama’s second-in-command, which means he can win support among the former president’s voters, and he was once tipped as the only centrist capable of stopping either Sanders or Warren.

Biden’s campaign has been cash-strapped. It entered October with only $9 million in the bank. His campaign has been vulnerable to attack by both Warren and Sanders for accepting donations from wealthy individuals, which led both of them to indirectly criticise the former vice president on social media.

With allegations from the White House that Biden and his son, Hunter, had dealings in Ukraine, the former vice president has been tainted with allegations of corruption.

There have been times where Biden has struggled to produce coherent answers to tough questions, which has led to rumours that Hillary Clinton could stand again. This is why Biden’s position in Iowa matters. It sets the momentum for this race. Maybe Buttigieg is now the only candidate who can prevent the progressives from winning the 2020 Democratic candidacy.

The South Bend Mayor has huge advantages. He is young, gay and intends to go straight from city hall to the White House. His husband Chasten is also a prolific fund-raiser. Buttigieg is also a former veteran and his response to Trump pardoning war criminals was effective when he described it as an ‘affront’ to good discipline. He also has the same likeable qualities many saw in Obama, and he is comfortable talking about foreign affairs and tariffs.

Regardless, he may struggle to attract the minority vote. Last year reports emerged of his record on race relations in South Bend regarding the police shooting of an African American man, which may prove he has no substance on this issue.

His claim that ‘black poverty fell by more than half on my watch’ has also been widely disputed by PolitiFact, which discovered it actually dropped by 39 percent. These errors may haunt him the closer he gets to winning the Democratic nomination.

Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Obama all won the Iowa caucus and went on to become president, whilst 15 other candidates lost this primary. If the Biden campaign fails to inspire voters and experiences more setbacks, Buttigieg could be the fourth person to win this crucial vote and go on to become a presidential candidate.

The South Bend Mayor does have some drawbacks, but if he is serious about winning, he must build on his success and go on to win the other important states. This is a race where every vote matters.