A recent New York Times piece titled “Why Bernie Sanders Stood Out at the Iowa State Fair” tries to make the case that the first in the nation caucus is slipping away from Sanders, who fueled his political revolution with a close second place in Iowa just a few years ago. While polling shows Sanders solidly in second place, some cite more recent polling which might indicate that position is slipping.
However, the campaign is quick to push back, and they’ve claimed on multiple occasions polls just simply do not capture the largely young and working class base Bernie Sanders has built. And that base, more importantly than just supporting him in the occasional poll, has proved willing to donate their time and money, which is the bedrock of what might become a winning campaign in Iowa just months from now.
The Times cited an untraditional campaign as the biggest liability heading into the Iowa Caucuses. Specifically, the Sanders campaign seems uninterested in using connections with Democratic Party county chairs to build a caucus team. Instead, the Sanders campaign is focused on turning out first time young and working-class voters. Additionally, the Sanders campaign is building their own ground game, instead of tapping into the already existing Democratic Party infrastructure.
While these decisions may traditionally seem as ill-advised. The Sanders campaign stresses though, these new voters are key to the process. As is his die hard base. Both of which love Bernie because he steps outside the political process. Bernie’s support trends toward Bernie because he shucks the party and their resources, not in spite of this fact.
On top of that, Bernie Sanders has an unshakeable base. According to donor analysis conducted by the Times, Bernie has over 7,000 individual donors in Iowa, far more than anybody else. Additionally, prior to the Wing Ding dinner, Bernie’s team decided not to gather outside the dinner and chant his name as is tradition. Instead they knocked on every single Democratic voter’s door in town. This is the power of a passionate base of support, it translates to boots on the ground.
This might not be how traditional campaigns are built, but Bernie Sanders is nothing if not untraditional. Bernie Sanders has always been interested in political revolution, and relying on energized first-time voters and die hard supporters is exactly how a political revolution is built. Not the traditional wining and dining of higher ups in the Iowa state Democratic Party.
This is especially true given Iowa is a caucus state, where coming out to support your candidate is necessarily an hours long affair, not just a stop in at the voting booth before or after work. The investment is crucial, and finding those willing to step into the political process for the first time, donate their hard earned money, or spend afternoons knocking on doors or phone banking, is a campaign taps into the sort of support they’ll need come caucus time. A caucus goer is investing a lot of time in a candidate and the Sanders campaign is looking to find the voters most invested from the jump.
This might turn heads, it might seem implausible, but Bernie’s entire political career is built on the possibility of the implausible. And a winning Iowa in 2020 is no different.