Hillary Clinton edged out Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in presidential caucuses held by Iowa Democrats. With all precincts counted, the former secretary of state finished with 49.8 percent to Sanders’s 49.6 percent.
Long regarded as more of a protest candidate than a serious challenger, Sanders had managed to tighten up the race considerably in the state of Iowa even as he lagged behind in national polls. In the end, however, the self-described socialist was unable to pull off the victory in a state that is almost as friendly as his neighboring New Hampshire which votes next on Feb. 9.
Sanders had several advantages which he’s unlikely to have in future states other than New Hampshire. The first is that the Democratic electorate in Iowa is overwhelmingly white and the outspoken 74-year-old has had persistent problems appealing to black and Hispanic voters.
“Being from New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont are parts of our great country, but just not really truly representative of our great country,” powerful U.S. representative Charlie Rangel said last month. “We have set up these little testing grounds, and I think they’re important. But if Bernie won everything in the places that are less diverse. I don’t see that as being representative of the American people across the country.”
“I never consider Senator Bernie Sanders to be in the same professional standard for the president as I do Hillary Clinton, not by a long shot,” the black Democrat added.
The polls back up Rangel’s assertion. Sanders has persistently trailed Clinton among blacks and Hispanics by over 50 points.
Things might change given his strong second-place finish in Iowa but as of now, Sanders needed a knockout blow and he didn’t land it. It is worth recalling, however, that during the 2008 Democratic presidential race, black voters actually preferred Clinton over her rival, future president Barack Obama. That changed, however, as Obama came to be seen as a more credible candidate instead of a protest candidate the way that Jesse Jackson was widely perceived to be during his two runs for the presidency.
The other variable in the Democratic race will be the multiple investigations into Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. While she herself has never been a target of the probes, the controversy has been a persistent topic for Clinton’s campaign. After assiduously avoiding the subject, Sanders once dismissed the whole affair as nothing but “your damn emails,” he has begun approaching it ever so slightly, repeatedly referring to the situation as “a very serious issue.”
Photo by Gage Skidmore
A writer, television producer, and cybersecurity consultant, Matthew Sheffield is a Bold contributor. He currently is a producer and reporter at The Hill's video division, Hill.TV.