The Iowa Caucuses without Jim Webb
After three months of polling in the low single digits in Iowa, former Virginia senator Jim Webb announced today that he will be suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, leaving room open for an independent run if he so chooses.
With Webb out of the race, this leaves four major candidates to possibly be onstage at the next debate, assuming none of them suspend their campaigns before Nov. 14 (looking at you, Lincoln Chafee). In addition to these four, extra podiums may be added if Vice President Joe Biden decides to jump in or if Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig garners enough support to qualify. But with Webb’s announcement today, who is really to benefit?
When it comes to the Iowa caucuses, there is no clear benefactor and very little difference will be noticed. Since his viral campaign announcement in July, Webb has only been to four events in Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register Candidate Tracker. Of the events he went to, they were all big-name ones, like the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame and the Iowa State Fair. Webb never exercised retail politics and got to know caucusgoers, leaving not too many of them candidate-less after his announcement today.
Considering how the Democrats function on the night of the caucuses, Webb most likely wouldn’t have had a viable preference group after the first round in any of the precincts*, forcing any of his supporters to either join another preference group or simply leave the caucus. Based on current polling data, a Webb/Chafee/O’Malley combined preference group would not even be enough to be considered viable.
The greatest chance of the realignment of Webb supporters causing an effect on the caucus results really only lies with Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’s campaigns; however, this will only happen in specific situations where one or two more supporters in a preference group gives a candidate an additional delegate. Both Clinton and Sanders are expected to win most, if not all, of the precincts. So, Webb dropping out of the Democratic race won’t have much effect, except clearing some room on the debate stage.
Ironically, by dropping out of the race, Webb has now ensured even more airtime for his former competitors in the upcoming debate, after his most memorable moments from the first Democratic debate consisting of him not getting the same amount of speaking time as other candidates. To be fair, Webb did only receive 15 minutes and 20 seconds while Hillary Clinton received 30 minutes and 25 seconds, according to NPR.
Nevertheless, the ultimate question is whether Webb will run as an independent or not. If he does, don’t expect to see him spend too much time in Iowa, since the Iowa caucuses aren’t geared toward Independent candidates.
*In order to be deemed a viable candidate, a preference group must have at least 15 percent of those participating in that caucus in order to receive any delegates.
Blevins is a junior politics and strategic political communications double major at Drake. He avidly follows Postmodern Jukebox, is a strong proponent of the color orange, and can often be found relaxing in a hammock if it’s a nice day out. Follow him on Twitter.