Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, has surged ahead in Iowa, just as the long anticipated Iowa Caucus begins. The sudden Sanders surge has mainstream leaders of the Democratic Party concerned that the self-described “democratic socialist” could win in Iowa, sending him on a trajectory to win the party nomination. That is something that many “old guard” Democrats fear. Former Secretary of State, John Kerry, was overheard by reporter saying that “Bernie could take down the party.”
For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party will report both the number of state delegates won by each candidate — as had been done in previous years — as well as who had the most votes at the beginning and the end of the night. Sanders’ campaign has placed emphasis on the early vote count, leading his rivals to worry that touting those initial and unofficial tallies could sway the final result.
“Everybody is playing by one set of rules except for Bernie,” an aide for another Democratic campaign told Politico. “They don’t really care if they disrupt it. They hate the Democratic Party. They hated them from four years ago, and they hate them now.”
Campaign aides told the outlet they are concerned that Sanders’ campaign or supporters could use early results to prematurely claim victory, which could affect the final outcome by leading voters who support other candidates to leave instead of supporting alternative candidates in later rounds. Under the rules, after the first round of voting in the caucuses, voters whose candidates do not receive at least 15 percent are able to switch candidates. That means the tallies will inevitably shift after the initial round.
The new rules were put in place after Sanders’ supporters complained that a narrow victory in 2016 by Hillary Clinton did not adequately reflect the raw number of voters turning out to support Sanders. Politico says that the new rules were designed to make the caucus system more transparent and to make sure that even the lowest-performing candidates get credit for all the votes they receive.
Ultimately, the figure that matters in the long run is the number of delegates a candidate receives to represent them at the Democratic convention, but Sanders’ chief adviser, Jeff Weaver, has suggested otherwise.
“At the end of the day, the first impression is probably the most accurate portrayal of who won the night,” Weaver told The Associated Press in January.
This is very different from the position held by the state’s Democratic Party.
“This is a contest for delegates,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price told the AP. “Campaigns will highlight whatever number is the most advantageous for them. But in the end, what matters is the delegates that come out of Iowa to the national convention, and (state delegates) will remain the best indicator of that.”