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WBUR Analysts: Caucus Debacle Could Give New Life To Long-Shot Candidates08:27

Caucus participant at Central Campus High School raise their hands to be counted. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Caucus participant at Central Campus High School raise their hands to be counted. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

In the wake of the chaotic and as-yet inconclusive Iowa caucuses, WBUR's Bob Oakes sits down with our political analysts — Democrat Michael Curry, former president of the Massachusetts NAACP, and Republican Jane Swift, former governor — to hash out what happened and what it might mean for the presidential race going forward.

Iowa Democratic Party officials say we will learn the results later Tuesday.

Interview Highlights  

On the fallout caused by the lack of results

Michael Curry: The loser in this case is the Iowa caucus. But there are some people who actually benefit... I think [Michael] Bloomberg could benefit from this; Deval [Patrick] could benefit from this, because there's no one coming out of this first state with too much momentum.

Jane Swift: I agree. I think you've seen the end of the Iowa caucuses. I don't see how a system that was already under attack ... for a lack of diversity, the sort of arcane way that it is held even within Iowa — there are questions about just how participatory it is with the time, commitment, etc. — can be sustained.

... I think the other loser in all this is our confidence in our electoral system, that had already been shaken. ... while this does not appear to be at all related to any outside interference, when systems — particularly technology systems — fail, there will be a lot of folks, particularly those when the eventual results come in, who will be very suspicious of the final results.

On whether we will see the field winnow after the caucuses

MC: No. ... Everyone's empowered by this because no one clearly walks out with momentum. ... the way this process works is that the night of the Iowa caucus, people are already headed to New Hampshire and trying to spin the news on what the outcome was.

On whether Sanders' campaign takes a hit

JS: Well, yes and no. .... certainly expectations had been built pretty high for Bernie that he was going to [win]. I heard people saying yesterday, 'He's going to have a ... resounding victory coming out of Iowa.' And it didn't appear that that was the case. ... So if it turns out that Bernie had a slim margin of victory or God forbid, did not win in Iowa, I think that's where the suspicions about the results of this start to become really murky and could follow this race for a while.

MC: Yeah, Bernie voters are already questioning the process throughout this; both the last presidential race and then this one. So I think this just feeds the conspiracies .... He was poised to take Iowa and be strong in New Hampshire as well ... I'm sure they're disappointed. ... And he's going to call into question whatever comes out of Iowa at this point." 

On what a Warren win in New Hampshire would mean

JS: I think if she won, it would be a huge victory. But I don't think she has to win, given that Bernie is also a next-door strong contender. And as you said, there'll still be lots of candidates in this race.

MC: I think that the key thing that she has to overcome now, and this gives her a little bit more time to do it, is whether she can beat Trump. I think people like Sen. Warren; they like her being a policy-minded person. But the sticking point for her has always been whether people can see her actually beating Donald Trump. She now has more time to make that case in New Hampshire.

On how Iowa could give life to some long-shot candidates

JS: I actually think it gives life to [Michael] Bloomberg... I have increasingly begun to believe that Bloomberg has a path to a third-party candidacy if the Democrats nominate one of these very left-leaning — some might say 'socialist' — candidates. I think he's laid national groundwork. And a contested candidate that folks don't have confidence in? [That] would be another way to get there.

This article was originally published on February 04, 2020.

This segment aired on February 4, 2020.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.


Wilder Fleming Twitter Political Producer
Wilder Fleming is a political producer at WBUR, focused on the path to November 2020.


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