Joe Biden once promised to take Donald Trump behind the gym and beat him up. Early results in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa caucuses suggest that he won’t even make it out of the gyms of Iowa. The Iowa Democratic party, which polls its members in gymnasiums across the state, delayed releasing the results of its caucuses on Monday night due, it said, to ‘inconsistencies in the reporting’. But why start now? Inconsistency in the reporting has been the hallmark of this Democratic nomination campaign, regardless of whose reports you believe.
The inconsistent Biden, incapable of controlling his talking points and his dental plate, staggered out of cryogenic storage and into this campaign as the all-but-official candidate of the DNC. While reports of the defeat of Bernie Sanders, who has all the faults of consistency, turned out to be exaggerated, the pro-Democratic media pushed candidates like Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard, and kept pushing them despite the evidence that support for them among primary voters was in the low single figures. The real story, that Sanders was the members’ choice, was ignored and suppressed.
‘The Iowa Democratic party said an effort at ‘quality control’ had delayed the data,’ the New York Times reported with the same high seriousness with which it had recommended Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. A pity that the quality control started so late. The size of the initial Democratic field — 20 candidates initially — resembled that of a reality television show. So did their winnowing down to 10, plus the surprise arrival on the island of diminutive dough-slinger Michael Bloomberg.
Further inconsistency came with the innovative emphasis on their being four ways to win the Iowa caucuses: the initial vote; the ‘final alignment’, in which voters whose candidate secures less than 15 percent of the vote amble over to another corner of the high school gym and reassign their votes; the conversion of those votes into the ‘state delegate equivalency’; and the eventual coalescence of the Iowa Democrats, who clearly have too much time on their hands, around ‘pledge delegates’.
Having four ways to win offers four ways to lose. That is the position Joe Biden finds himself in in the small hours of Monday night. By midnight in Iowa, 33 of 1,765 precincts had reported their results. Sanders, not surprisingly, was in the lead (27.7 percent), with the grim Elizabeth Warren efficiently clinging on in second (25.1 percent). The surprise was not so much that Pete Buttigieg was in third (23.8 percent), but that Biden was trailing in fifth on 11.1 percent, behind Amy Klobuchar.
The consistently reported story before Monday night was that Sanders and Biden would tie, and the field would slim from seven active candidates to four, who would go on to New Hampshire next week. The assumption was that by Super Tuesday, we would be down to Biden, Sanders and Warren, and that Warren’s lack of charisma and Sanders’s lack of centrist appeal would allow Biden to sail to the nomination.
If the final count in any way resembles this picture, then Biden is finished. Incapable of improvising before the cameras, he will be obliged to explain his failure. The Iowa Democratic party has loyally mentioned low turnout, in the way of a provincial hotelier apologizing for the lumpy mattresses. But there has been enough of a turnout to expose Biden as an emperor without clothes, and the suspension of the count leaves him stranded in his birthday suit in the Iowa snow.
Sanders is polling strongly ahead of Biden in New Hampshire. Biden, if he remembers his prompts, will protest that he leads Sanders in the other two February primaries, Nevada and South Carolina. But it may be too late. Biden looked punch drunk in Iowa, and he may be about to get a beating in the gym in front of the whole school.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of Spectator USA.