Sanders Sweeps Iowa Youth Caucus, O’Malley Strong, Clinton In 3rd (With A Caveat)

By Pat Rynard

November 19, 2015

Young Iowans around the state were “feeling the Bern” Thursday night at mock caucuses held jointly by Democratic and Republican county parties and the Secretary of State’s office. Sanders took over half of the delegates in the Democrats’ contest, while O’Malley posted a strong second place. Clinton failed to reach viability in several counties.

The full statewide results for Democrats were:

Sanders: 52.74%
O’Malley: 24.09%
Clinton: 14.74%
Uncommitted: 8.43%

However, and this is a big however, it’s notable that all students – Democrats, Republican and independents – participated in both the Democratic and Republican caucus. So one could obviously see how young Republicans would do an “anyone but Hillary” strategy, as they’d avoid supporting who they see as their most likely opposition next year. That may also have impacted the size of the uncommitted percentage, and perhaps boosted O’Malley as some Republicans may not want to align with either Clinton or a self-described “socialist.” The Youth Caucus was held in 22 counties, with 984 total participants for the Democrats. Also, many of those who participated won’t be old enough to vote in the real caucus in February.

Still, even with those important caveats, it was a very good night for both Sanders and O’Malley, and a worrisome one for Clinton. Everyone knows that Sanders commands strong enthusiasm among younger voters, but to win in such an overwhelming landslide should give other campaigns pause of what that demographic can do on caucus night. Sanders’ hopes largely rest on whether or not his campaign can turn out many first-time caucus-goers on caucus night. This seems to reinforce the idea that he’d clean up among younger first-timers.

The results are also particularly encouraging for O’Malley, eager to show momentum after a solid debate last weekend. O’Malley has aggressively pitched his campaign to younger voters, claiming the “new leadership” mantle and presenting himself as part of a new generation in the Democratic Party. Everyone tries to appeal to young people, and Sanders’ star power and policies, along with Clinton’s historic candidacy are tough to beat, so it was always questionable what share of that vote O’Malley could realistically get. Apparently, a good chunk of it, at least from these results. I saw a few anecdotes online of non-viable Clinton groups switching over to O’Malley’s corner, perhaps showing their concern of Sanders being her top competition. That’s also a scenario unlikely to happen in many precincts on actual caucus night, but does point to O’Malley being a consensus candidate that could gain support if either Sanders or Clinton falters.

The dynamics and rules of this caucus clearly worked against Clinton, but you’d still hope she could garner more than just under 15%. Young women should form an important part of the Clinton coalition, excited to make history with the first female president. Clinton failed to reach viability in several counties, including Democratic strongholds of Clinton and Johnson. Again, while the Republican participation in this youth caucus skewed things, that’s not a good sign for her viability in college precincts on caucus night.

On the Republican side, the results closely mirrored most Iowa polls, with only Rand Paul really over-performing among youth. It’s rather interesting that the Democratic side was so upside-down from the broader electorate (or at least what the polls say), while the Republican side didn’t vary as much. Here’s the Republican breakdown:

Carson: 22.35%
Trump: 15.25%
Rubio: 14.83%
Paul: 14.01%
Cruz: 8.34%
Bush: 7.52%
Fiorina: 5.25%
Christie: 2.57%
Santorum: 2.27%
Kasich: 2.27%
Other/Write-in: 1.54%
Huckabee: 1.34%
Jindal: 0.93%
Pataki: 0.82%

One would have thought that Rubio might have done better with young Iowans, but he didn’t break 15%. Cruz did a little worse than recent momentum would indicate, perhaps showing his support is limited to the older evangelical set. I find it humorous that Other/Write-in beat out Huckabee, a past caucus winner, and that a few confused people voted for recent drop-out Bobby Jindal (although Jones County held their caucus last month, which was included, so perhaps it came from there). Also, who’s voting for Pataki?

All in all, some very interesting numbers to mull over. Starting Line was unable to make it out to any of the youth caucus sites (Baby Starting Line was born yesterday, so I’m taking a break from the campaign trail for a bit), but plenty of people Tweeted out interesting observations from around the state. Here’s a couple of them to give you a better sense of what happened on the ground (also, John Deeth had a good write-up of Johnson County’s):


by Pat Rynard
Posted 11/19/15

  • Pat Rynard

    Pat Rynard founded Iowa Starting Line in 2015. He is now Courier Newsroom's National Political Editor, where he oversees political reporters across the country. He still keeps a close eye on Iowa politics, his dog's name is Frank, and football season is his favorite time of year.

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