This week, Iowa voters kick off the process of Democratic primaries.
There are a slew of candidates for voters to choose from, with two distinctly different paths: progressive and moderate. Iowans will be the first to determine which one they would rather follow.
Let’s have a look at the front runners, and how Iowans will choose.
Who Are The Front Runners?
The top two candidates in Iowa right now are Joseph Biden and Bernie Sanders, each polling at 22 percent.
Joseph Biden, former Vice President under Obama, has been in the political arena the longest. Speaking with a folksy Pennsylvania inflection, Biden has urged for a return to moderation in the party, capturing the older vote. He has advocated for restoring relationships with U.S. allies and bipartisan compromise.
Sanders reflects the opposite. A staunch progressive, he has vowed to reform the system. He has advocated for free public college, health care, and a $15 minimum wage. His pronounced and strong-willed voice has dazzled young people, leading to him soaring in the polls.
Other leading candidates reflect the same divide. There is Elizabeth Warren, closely aligned with Sanders, who has focused her campaign on dismantling corruption in industry and politics. Then there is Amy Klobushar, who is renowned for her ability to compromise with the Republican party, reflecting the moderate side.
Others straddle the line between the two, like Pete Buttigieg. With a tempered speaking voice, he has not argued for a greater overhaul of the system. However, he has expressed the desire to reform the Supreme Court.
How Will Iowans Choose?
On February 3, the Iowa caucuses will start the process of picking the Democratic nominee.
Iowan Democrats will first gather into county conventions. Here, crowds of Democrats will debate and discuss whom they should pick. They will first initiate a “pre-alignment vote” to see which candidates will qualify (qualified candidates must have 15 percent of the vote). After that, those who voted for the disqualified candidates can vote for another candidate in the “final vote.”
But this is not how it ends. There is a delegate system set in place, where representatives pledge themselves to vote for whomever the Iowans choose. There are three tiers of delegates: county, state, and national. County delegates will represent individual counties. They will vote for their counties to determine their state delegates’ vote. State delegates will represent the state at the state convention. They will vote for their state to determine their national delegates’ vote in the national convention.
National delegates will represent the entire Democratic party. Iowans have 41 delegates in the national convention, who will vote based on the results of the state convention. Iowa’s delegates constitute approximately 1 percent of the total delegates.
Iowa’s reach in the national Democratic primary is quite limited when looking at its proportion of delegates. However, its caucuses do set the scene for the start of the Democratic race. With the party split on which way to turn, Iowa voters will be the initial choosers. That first decision will echo throughout the party, no matter how small-scale the decision is.
Sources: NYTimes, VOX, WSJ, people-press.org