Last night’s result was closer than many Clinton supporters, including myself, would have liked. Looking back to the commentary this time last year many pundits were convinced that Mrs Clinton would be walking to victory in the first voting state, yet the actuality was a sprint to the finish line between Hillary and Bernie.
As I noted in August 2015, around the time of the Iowa State Fair, Iowan politics can be difficult to understand. This is a state that is split politically: to the east of Des Moines, Iowa is solidly Democratic; to the west, it’s rabidly Republican. Central Iowa tends to be more fluid, although Des Moines itself leans to the Democrats.
Iowa has played an out-sized role in US presidential elections since the primary calendar was re-jigged in 1972 following the chaos of the ’68 election; Iowa switched to a proportional representation system for its delegates and, to allow time for everyone to understand the new rules, the vote was brought forward to January and has stayed there ever since. For any Brits reading this the total land area of Iowa is a little larger than England’s, however the Iowan population is about 18 times smaller at only three million.
Interestingly. although somewhat conservative, Iowa has led the way on several important equal rights issues. The state’s law criminalizing same-sex sexual activity was repealed in June 1976, 27 years before the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas that struck down the sodomy law in Texas and invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states. Iowa also became the third state to legalise same-sex marriage after Iowa’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s law that declared same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The unanimous decision by the court in Varnum v. Brien held that the state’s limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution, and same-sex marriage became legal on the 3rd April 2009. This made Iowa the first non-East Coast state to permit same-sex marriage.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that 91 per cent of residents age 25 or older have obtained at least a high school diploma, placing the state seventh among all 50 states. On a per-capita basis, Iowa has more high school graduates than 49 other states.
* The Iowa Democratic Party doesn’t report vote totals. Figures are state delegate equivalents, which are the estimated number of state convention delegates the candidates would receive based on caucus results.
Although a technical win for Hillary and despite predictions that Bernie would be romping to victory in Iowa, the results are largely positive for the Clinton camp. Remember that in the 2008 Iowan Democrat primary, Mrs Clinton polled only 29.5 per cent of the vote and came in third place behind Barack Obama and John Edwards. The collapse the O’Malley campaign notwithstanding, Sanders needed a strong victory over Clinton to motivate his campaign beyond the narrow opening focus of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Whilst New Hampshire is (probably) going to go with Bernie, given his native proximity across the border in his home-state of Vermont, the real question is whether Clinton will be able to close the gap to within single-digits.
At present the senator from Vermont leads in New Hampshire by an average of eighteen points over Clinton (although the most recent UMass Lowell/7News poll has Sanders ahead by 31 points!). New Hampshire voters are, by their very nature, a fickle bunch and maintain a strong independent streak when it comes to polling; many only make their final decision on who to vote for on primary day, and have been known to fluctuate beforehand based on who is up or down in the polls.
The long march to (final) victory continues, but this Brit remains confident that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate and will take the presidency this November.