A lot has to happen before we bring you the 2020 Iowa Caucuses results.
The candidates must continue to navigate the early stages of the campaign, and yes, in 2019, they were the early stages of the campaign. If it’s the year before the election, it’s early. Candidacies began and ended before a single vote was cast, and perhaps more than you think on the Democratic side. (Our tracker for the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries can be found here.) Those who remain – most, anyway – will contest the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses for a chance to position themselves for victory.
For a long while, Iowa is the traditional starting place for the presidential primaries. Residents of its ninety-nine counties become used to presidential candidates topping by, including the bold ones who pledge to visit all 99 of them. From little Adams County to the cities of Polk County, every caucus will matter as campaigns will be at stake.
2020 Iowa Caucuses Results
Some would even say that on February 16th, the date of the official update of this page, there is no winner of the Iowa Caucus. We gave Pete Buttigieg the checkmark for apparently winning the most state delegates, but the caucus vote totalling was so disorganized and dysfunctional that the entire enterprise was a lost cause. Joe Biden might concur with that assessment, anyway, as he had an underwhelming performance.
Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg were the clear frontrunners in Iowa after we got the balance of the results. Elizabeth Warren won only one county, but placed third. Amy Klobuchar from neighboring Minnesota overperformed her poll numbers.
Riding a wave of momentum out of this debacle would have been impossible, but these same two candidates ended up doing very well in New Hampshire the following week.
Why Are You Only Covering the Democratic Caucuses?
The Democratic caucuses are the only game in town in 2020. If the Republican caucuses even happen, incumbent Donald Trump is to be a heavy favorite. Should that change between now and February, we’ll talk.
Recent Prior Iowa Caucus Results: Democratic
Omitted are years in which a sitting Democratic president was renominated uncontested. 1992 seems far back enough.
2016 Iowa Caucus Results: Democratic
Hillary Clinton won the Iowa caucuses in 2016 by a narrow margin over Bernie Sanders. Believe it or not, the two tied in three counties.
This race would signal the start of a long and drawn-out campaign on the Democratic side in 2016, which almost went all the way to the Democratic Convention. Iowa gave us an indication of what was to come for the next few months.
How The 2020 Iowa Caucuses Will Work1
If you are from Iowa (of course), at least 18 years old (or will be on presidential election day), and are a Democrat, you can participate in the caucus.
Participants will speak and eventually split up into camps for their preferred candidates. We may be fortunate enough to see some of this play out on live television, should any of us not be able to attend. However, there may, in fact, be Iowa caucuses outside of Iowa for the first time in 2020.2
Caucusgoers will elect delegates to county conventions for their preferred candidates. These county conventions will then elect state convention delegates. There will also be district-level conventions, and at the end of the day, what matters is that it trickles up and DNC delegates are allocated.
A candidate must get at least 15 to 25 percent of participant support in a caucus to be considered “viable,” depending on the caucus.
Iowa Key Counties
See our latest video on the largest counties in Iowa and why they will have such a big impact on the results of the 2020 Iowa Caucuses.
The largest county in Iowa by far is Polk, the home to Des Moines and its suburbs. According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, Polk County also has the most active Democratic voter registrations with just over 115,000 as of November 2019.3 This is more than double the second-most populous county in the state, Linn County, home to Cedar Rapids.
Though not in the exact same order, the ten most populous counties in Iowa are also the top-ten counties with the most active Democratic voters.
One county which may not see much campaign activity is Osceola County, population appx. 6,500, in the northwestern corner of the state bordering Minnesota. There are less than 500 registered and active Democratic voters here. However, it could be an opportunity for a second-tier candidate to impress the locals and bag a few caucus wins.
1: “Iowa Delegate Selection Plan for the 2020 Democratic National Convention” (by the Iowa Democratic Party, published 6 April 2019, amended 19 September 2019, accessed 24 November 2019)
2: “DNC approves Iowa’s plan to hold ‘satellite’ caucuses in nursing homes, college campuses and more in 2020” (by Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register website, published 20 September 2019, accessed 24 November 2019)
3: “Voter Registration Totals by County” (Iowa Secretary of State website, accessed 24 November 2019)
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