Iowans May Have Influenced the California Primary

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught at the University of San Francisco, Berkeley and Golden Gate University, is a regular columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and was Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, 2017-2019.

Mike Bloomberg, the ex-Mayor of New York, is busy introducing himself to California voters.

He may have gotten a big lift—not from welcoming Californians who barely know him—but from Iowans. 

A major and still yet to be explained smart phone application has thrown the Caucus results into total turmoil in what has since 1972 given Democrats the first reading on voter sentiments in presidential races. 

This inexcusable mess has implications that are producing reverberations which go well beyond the angry and frustrated Iowans creating an imagery of ineptitude that can only hearten Trump believers and nascent Bloomberg fans. 

Winners in the Hawkeye State have compiled a notable record of success predicting the eventual nominees in 7 of the last 9 Democratic presidential contests! 

Bloomberg is counting on a big showing in California’s March 3rd primary on Super Tuesday to kick-start his outsider bid having chosen to bypass the first four contests. Our primary is joined the same day by 13 other states and Democrats abroad. 

After the free-for-all scramble in Iowa which may not produce a decisive victor, California looms as a shiny prize with its 416 pledged delegates that will factor heavily as the presidential race proceeds. 

If Bloomberg’s late entry strategy has any legs California voters will be in a position to affirm or disprove it. 

If the early tabulations in Iowa hold up the one candidate who may be best positioned to stand in his way is the 38-year old Mayor Pete Buttigieg who is on the verge of pulling off a stunning upset in Iowa that could resound up and down the Golden State. 

His chief opposition could come from former Vice President Joe Biden the other high-powered moderate who retains great popularity among many California voters.

That is assuming Biden can remain a factor were he to come limping out of Iowa, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada with third or fourth place finishes. 

That could open the California field to one of the two farthest Left-leaning candidates—Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who are in a fierce fight to capture the liberal wing.

Either of their ascendancies will be further cause for Trumpian joy and spell heartburn for Democrats who fear either will scare off many voters in the general election. 

If neither candidate fares very well in the initial primaries and are forced to split their votes with the hard-charging Buttigieg, back-to-back losses to the surprising mayor could completely transform the Democratic race. 

It might also put even greater pressure on Californians to help save their candidacies—a state where Sanders has a strong edge.

Biden’s final chance, if he is prepared to take the long view, would occur in South Carolina, the first major primary state with any real diversity where any sizeable drop-off in the black vote could doom what is left of his candidacy. 

If Buttigieg has serious weaknesses with black voters they could be exposed in the Palmetto State.  But he might still have enough momentum even with a loss there to carry him forward to California where the 38-year old’s prospects as the newest and freshest face in his party could further brighten.

Moderates might consider him a reliable option if someone such as Minnesota’s Sen. Amy Klobuchar does not develop sudden appeal that could propel her into the front-ranks. Her mid-western bearings have apparently given her little sway in neighboring Iowa where she trailed badly. 

Klobuchar may be the least well-known of the leading candidates and her fortunes in California could now hinge on the New Hampshire results next Tuesday where she is sandwiched between the two Senatorial candidates from neighboring Vermont and Massachusetts. 

Millennials who came of voting age during the Obama era and supported him heavily are the new Gen-Xers aged 40-54 many of whom could  inclined to support “Mayor Pete” if the Iowa result are any indicator. 

This youngish cohort comprises a substantial portion of the California electorate which could be very receptive to a new face. 

For an older generation, Bloomberg, 77, might be seen as the safer choice where he has already invested $200 million on California advertising of an estimated $54 billion fortune, has opened 20 offices and has reportedly hired as many as 800 professionals. 

If Bloomberg catches fire here, it will be attributable in part to Iowans who may have consigned their state as the first-in-the-nation primary to the dustbin of history because of the chaos which their bizarre and complicated election process has engendered.

That would not be the worst result as I wrote in my previous column Thoughts About the California Presidential Primary.

“Ironically while moving up the date of the California primary to give it more national clout favors those with the biggest bankrolls the outsized and arguably long outdated influence exerted by two of the nation’s smallest states—Iowa and New Hampshire—could still offer the winners critical sway with the voters.”

Bloomberg has already made visits to Compton, Stockton, Sacramento, and Fresno in the heart of the farm belt— cities with large Latino/Hispanic populations. 

For the moment he has the spotlight to himself. That will soon change as other candidates begin to invade California.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks California is destined to have a strong say with a tip of the hat to Iowa which let down its voters but in doing so may have unintentionally raised the stakes here and in other states.

 

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