Primary Source: In Iowa, the calculating will be key

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/29/2020 10:17:01 PM
Modified: 1/29/2020 10:16:56 PM

With the Iowa caucuses set for Monday night, most eyes are on the Hawkeye State this week.

The math there at nearly 1,700 precincts across the state will be crucial to who gets a bounce and who gets left behind. Under Iowa’s rules, candidates need at least 15% support in a precinct caucus to be considered “viable.”

After an initial tally, caucusgoers can realign, with supporters of a “nonviable” candidate hoping to add people to their cluster. Otherwise, they have to realign and join a group supporting another candidate or sit out the voting.

Longtime Democratic activist Ken Dean, a Montpelier resident who worked for Gary Hart and Jerry Brown’s presidential campaigns and has experience in Iowa, noted that most polls in Iowa currently only show U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Vice President Joe Biden comfortably above that 15% threshold statewide, although former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are on the bubble.

If Warren supporters fail to get 15% in a precinct, will they go to Sanders? If backers of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., fall short, will they jump to fellow moderates like Biden and Buttigieg?

“The realignment vote will determine Iowa,” Dean said via email, noting that organization and the so-called “ground game” are especially important there.

”The poetry and paradox of Iowa. A charm New Hampshire does not have,” Dean wrote. “No realignment votes in New Hampshire. At least not yet.”

Campaigning in the Valley

A couple of candidates are going to be campaigning in the Upper Valley, and most all who are still in the race will come flooding back to New Hampshire by next Tuesday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has launched a six-day “Meet the Moment” bus tour in the Granite State, with two stops in the Upper Valley on Monday.

That includes a talk at 3:30 p.m. at the Top of the Hop at Dartmouth and a similar appearance later that day, at 5:30 p.m., at Colby-Sawyer College’s Wheeler Hall in New London.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is in the midst of a 17-day — you read that right — bus tour of Iowa, but is planning a Lebanon town hall Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the former Seminary Hill School, now home to the SAU 88 offices, in West Lebanon.

Yang is being helped this week in South Carolina by comedian Dave Chappelle, who is making some appearances on his behalf there.

Speaking of entertainment, Sanders announced that The Strokes, a nationally known rock band that has been around for more than 20 years, will perform at a “get out the vote” rally for him Monday, Feb. 10, the night before the primary, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, went snowboarding at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, N.H., on Tuesday, to get a little free publicity and key TV time.

On the Republican front, former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, who is hoping to unseat President Donald Trump, will make a policy talk on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Dartmouth’s Rockefeller Center.

Several campaigns are relying on surrogates this week, including Biden, who is in a weeklong “Soul of the Nation” bus tour in Iowa.

Here in New Hampshire, former Gov. John Lynch, one of Biden’s most prominent and earliest backers, is campaigning around the state in a “Live Free, Vote Joe” tour.

Lynch at 2:15 p.m. Thursday will help open a Biden campaign office on Pleasant Street in Claremont, then head north to Lebanon for some phone banking. After that, he’ll target the Dartmouth crowd by holding a Young Democrats “meet and greet” at Salt hill Pub in Hanover at 6 p.m.

Polling averages on the Real Clear Politics website show Sanders with a narrow lead over Biden in Iowa, and a larger, but still single-digit margin, in New Hampshire.

In a phone interview this week, Lynch said Biden has the competence, experience and compassion to help unite the country.

“I also think that Joe Biden is going to bring stability to the world stage when it is total chaos (now),” said Lynch, who notes that polls show many voters still regard Biden as the most electable of the Democrats against Trump.

There’s some thinking that Biden is just trying for a respectable finish in Iowa and New Hampshire before states like South Carolina and Nevada, where he still leads in the polls, will vote. But Lynch thinks Biden “has a lot of brand equity in New Hampshire. People have met him and know him.”

“I think he could win New Hampshire. I don’t think he has to, but I think he could win New Hampshire,” Lynch said.

As for Warren, she and Sanders, Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet remain tied up with the impeachment trial, but several of Warren’s supporters plan to hold a news conference on Thursday at a bookstore in Concord to remind voters of her support in the state.

With Vermont voting in the big March 3 Super Tuesday primaries, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touched down briefly in the Green Mountain State on Monday with a campaign stop in Burlington. And he laid out a starkly different message than that of Sanders or Warren.

“I think the country wants an evolution rather than a revolution,” Bloomberg said, according to VtDigger. “The country likes an awful lot of what we have, they just don’t like the style. They’re not looking for big change, I don’t think, in anything other than management and how we conduct ourselves.”

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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