Why Cory Booker Won a Delegate; Iowa Caucus Strategery

Cory Booker arrives to speak to reporters after the fourth Democratic presidential debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Des Moines — At Drake University’s fieldhouse, Monday night’s caucus ended with an amusing twist: Senator Cory Booker, who dropped out of the race in January, won one of the precinct’s six delegates.

After the first round of voting at the precinct, only three candidates had cleared the 15 percent “viability” threshold. Out of 403 caucusgoers, Elizabeth Warren won 120, Pete Buttigieg won 101, and Bernie Sanders won 100.

That gave the caucusgoers who backed the non-viable candidates — Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang — a chance to put their heads together before the second round of voting. If they simply distributed themselves as they wished among Warren, Buttigieg, and Sanders, each of those three candidates would likely have gotten two delegates apiece.

But by banding together, the students for Klobuchar, Biden, and Yang had enough power to take one of the six delegates — and deny one to the three viable candidates. The students decided not to create an “uncommitted” delegate because they deliberately wanted to send a message that they wanted a more moderate candidate. One student suggested they back Tulsi Gabbard, but the group eventually decided it was a bad idea to support someone still in the race.

Drake sophomore Ireland Larsen, who wore her Cory Booker T-shirt to the caucus, was one of the students who proposed New Jersey senator as a compromise. And following some discussion, the students were in agreement. After the second “alignment” of votes occurred, the tally was Warren 127, Buttigieg 108, Sanders 101, and Booker 65. The gambit likely cost Sanders a precinct delegate: Sanders and Booker each walked away with one delegate, while Warren and Buttigieg each got two.

“We get a moderate. We block a delegate from going to Warren or Pete or Sanders. So that was the idea,” said Drake senior Sean Griffin, who initially backed Klobuchar. “We hope that at the end of the day maybe it shows that there’s a voice missing in the race.”

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