By Jim Ellis
Jan. 16, 2020 — The most recent early-state polling again underscores the distinct possibility that we will not see a clear Democratic presidential leader emerge before Super Tuesday.
We are now inside three weeks before the Iowa Caucuses and the survey data and candidate messaging strategies are beginning to take firm hold. Polling is close among the top four candidates, though they appear to be in a proverbial pinball machine as the four bounce from top to bottom at least in the Hawkeye State.
It is likely that either former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg places first. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is likely to finish midway within the four leaders, seeing her support drop as we get closer to actual voting.
The Caucus rules could change some precinct outcomes. It is probable that the party will adopt a rule, as they have in the past, that allows a voter to change his or her vote if their candidate finishes last in a precinct Caucus tally. In any event, projections suggest that the top four will each exceed 15 percent of the at-large vote to qualify for delegates, and potentially achieve such a preference number in each of the four congressional districts.
This means we could well see a splitting of the 41 first-ballot delegates among the four candidates with the first-place finisher getting approximately just 12 delegates and the fourth-place qualifier earning as many as eight.
The news improves for Biden in New Hampshire, but the just released Patinkin Research Strategies study (Jan. 5-7; 600 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters) also shows at least three candidates qualifying for delegate apportionment. Here, Sen. Warren again appears to be falling off the pace.