As Pete Buttigieg continues to surge and Joe Biden keeps collapsing, a deep dive into the Iowa precinct statistics (such as they are) contains some surprising and potentially hopeful news for Elizabeth Warren. Contrary to assumptions based on ideology, she turns out to be the second choice of a surprisingly large percentage of initial Biden supporters.
Here are some numbers, courtesy of Richard Martin, a self-described political junkie and numbers junkie based in Iowa. Martin was a precinct captain for Biden.
Taking a very close look at the numbers in two liberal counties, Johnson (home of the University of Iowa), and Story, home of Iowa State, here’s what he found.
In Johnson County, 2,709 caucus attendees supported candidates who did not meet the viability threshold on the first ballot. Of these, 9.7 percent switched to Buttigieg, who gained 235 votes; 11.1 percent moved to Sanders, who gained 303; and 30.5 percent went to Warren, who picked up 827. (The remainder went home.)
The pattern was basically the same in Story County. Warren gained 28.9 percent of second-ballot switchers, more than any other.
Martin, who has no ax to grind—his firm doesn’t do political consulting—found a similar pattern when he went door-knocking for Biden in Des Moines and spoke to more than a hundred Biden-leaning voters. A surprising number of Biden supporters reported Warren as their second choice.
Martin’s surmise is that many voters who like both Biden and Warren are not as ideologically motivated as pundits think. They admire both based on personal qualities and on the question of who they believe can defeat Trump; rightly or wrongly, they don’t see huge ideological differences.
This shift to Warren in Iowa second-round balloting was not enough to spare her a disappointing third-place finish. And she seems headed for something similar in New Hampshire. But as Biden continues to slip, Warren rather than the centrist Buttigieg could pick up lots of onetime Biden supporters.
Of course, if Warren is to play the role of party unifier in the endgame, she first needs to survive the next few primaries.