How important is winning Iowa?

Plus, Trump hits back at Bloomberg News.

Isaac Saul

Today’s read: 8 minutes.

I answer a question about early states in the primaries, go over the Bloomberg News story and a very important Tangle poll.

The scene from a 2008 Iowa caucus | Photo: Citizensharp / WikiCommons

Who would you vote for?

In the last few months, I’ve featured a ton of polling data in Tangle. I also receive emails every day from readers who express preferences for various Democratic candidates, Trump or moderate Republicans. Which got me thinking: I wonder where Tangle readers are in the election right now? I’ve created a brief, 15-second poll to find out. And throughout the 2020 race I will send this poll again to see how your views shift. Please vote by pressing the button below! I’ll share the results tomorrow.

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Updates.

  • Today, a federal court ruled that Deutsche Bank must turn over detailed documents about President Trump’s finances to two congressional committees. The ruling is probably going to be appealed to the Supreme Court, but opens the door for House Democrats to get their hands on extensive information about Trump’s personal and business finances he’s tried to keep secret, according to The New York Times.

  • Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi seemed to backtrack on plans to hold an impeachment vote before January 1st. In comments to reporters, Pelosi said a backlog of bills worked against the time frame. She added that an impeachment vote around Christmas “doesn’t fit the holiday spirit,” meaning it could wait until 2020. You can read more here.


What D.C. is talking about.

Yesterday, President Trump announced that he would revoke Bloomberg News’s press credentials for rallies and other campaign events. The announcement came after Bloomberg said it would continue to investigate Trump during the 2020 election, but refrain from probing its owner, Michael Bloomberg, or any other candidate for president in the Democratic primary. Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale said the decision to “formalize preferential reporting policies is troubling and wrong.”


What the left is saying.

There were mixed reactions. When Bloomberg News announced that it would not “investigate” Bloomberg during the election, some took its side. Jonathan Swan, an Axios reporter who shoots rather down the middle, made the case on Twitter that no mainstream media outlet covers its owner aggressively and Bloomberg couldn’t be taken seriously as an impartial news organization when reporting on Bloomberg. Once the news team made the decision not to investigate Bloomberg, they had to make the decision not to investigate the rest of the Democratic field, so as not to appear biased in that reporting. Others, like Slate’s Ashley Feinberg, said “Seems like people who pride themselves on being independent should have no problem rigorously covering a candidate regardless of the connection.” When Trump made this announcement, though, cries of press freedom immediately exploded. Trump, after all, is no stranger to restricting the press: in 2016, he refused to give credentials to HuffPost, Politico, BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, Univision, and the Des Moines Register, among others. He even once banned The Washington Post from an event. This, to many on the left, is just part of a larger trend of Trump trying to fight any coverage about himself he doesn’t like.


What the right is saying.

What do you expect? The campaign is responding exactly how they should, given the rules that Bloomberg News reporters are now operating under. “As President Trump’s campaign, we are accustomed to unfair reporting practices, but most news organizations don't announce their biases so publicly,” Parscale said. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz went on Twitter and asked whether the Trump campaign should give press credentials to DNC opposition researchers since Bloomberg’s stated policy is equivalent to that. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the Republican party would also follow Trump’s lead. “Media outlets should be independent and fair, and this decision proves that Bloomberg News is neither,” she wrote. Bloomberg even took heat for its decision from a former staffer, Megan Murphy, who was the Washington D.C. bureau chief. “It is truly staggering that *any* editor would put their name on a memo that bars an army of unbelievably talented reporters and editors from covering massive, crucial aspects of one of the defining elections of our time,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “Staggering.”


My take.

Frankly, I was disappointed to see so many people on the left defending Bloomberg’s decision or attacking Trump for his. First and foremost, I just feel awful for the reporters at Bloomberg. It’s one of the most talented newsrooms in the country, and Bloomberg is one of the most reliable news organizations out there. They were put in a bind by their editor-in-chief John Micklethwait, who started this whole thing with an internal memo telling reporters not to investigate Bloomberg, his family or his foundation, and to extend that courtesy to other Democratic candidates. You’re castrating a newsroom with guidelines like that, and it’s pretty unbelievable that they think it’s a healthy decision (by the way: Micklethwait did say Bloomberg News would continue to aggregate and publish investigative work from other outlets, though that part of his memo has been mostly ignored).

I really do believe as a leader that Trump is one of the greatest threats to journalism there is. He has convinced a huge chunk of the country that good journalists seeking out the honest truth are “enemies of the people.” He has dismissed dozens and dozens of stories as “fake news” that ended up being 100% real. And he’s so successfully muddied the water with propaganda arms posing as real news sites that more than half of Americans don’t even trust the news they read (there are some pros to this skepticism, but it’s dangerous too).

All that being said, I can’t blame Trump here. Imagine for a moment that Jeff Bezos was running for president. I can’t, for the life of me, imagine The Washington Post announcing that it would refrain from investigating him. Of course they would! They’d be best positioned to, just like Bloomberg News probably is. Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire who served three terms as mayor of New York under the watchful eye of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and half the tabloids on the planet. He can handle press scrutiny, and Bloomberg News should apply it liberally. That they would settle on a policy to treat the president differently than they treat his opponents is wrong and unfair, and if I were the Trump campaign I would have had the same predictable response. It’s an easy choice. You get one more newsroom off your back and you can justify it.


Your questions, answered.

Reminder: if you want to submit a question, just press reply to this email and write in. It’s that easy!

Q: I wanted to write in and see if you wanted to tackle a question I tried to ask Nate Silver on Twitter yesterday. 538 posted a bunch of polling averages (nationally and for each primary state). One question I asked, as a fan of Mayor Pete, is if there is any data to let us know how voters react after the first few primaries. For example, if Buttigieg wins Iowa, how does that affect those who are identifying as voting for Biden in the polls. Do a significant portion of voters switch from Biden to Buttigieg in New Hampshire and beyond based on the Iowa win?

- Chad, Columbus, OH

Tangle: Voters hear a ton about Iowa and New Hampshire, and with good reason: they’re the first two states to vote in a primary contest and they often set the stage for the rest of the campaign. The “data” that I think answers your question is probably not as niche or complex as you think. After all, we can look back at candidates’ performances in Iowa and New Hampshire and then consider how they did in the presidential race. I’ll start by saying this, though: How winning Iowa impacts later states is hard to tell, mostly because winning Iowa is not an event that happens in a vacuum. When a candidate wins Iowa, they immediately get tons of free media, television appearances, and fundraising (voters typically throw themselves behind people who are viewed as electable). Right before early voting states is also when huge oppo research and attacks on fellow Democrats will heat up, so it could be tough to tie a loss in Iowa to a candidate’s fall in the polls instead of, say, a series of damaging articles that come out around that same time. Still, there’s a lot of data to suggest the emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire is worthwhile.

For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll just talk about Democrats (though it seems worth noting that no Republican has become a nominee for president without winning Iowa or New Hampshire in 40 years).

Since 1976, over the last 11 elections, seven eventual nominees for president won Iowa, including the last four (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry and Al Gore). During those same 11 elections, the winner of the New Hampshire primary has produced six nominees. Only one person, Bill Clinton, has gone on to become president without winning Iowa or New Hampshire primaries (and that only happened because an Iowan politician was running, so Clinton didn’t even try to win). In 2004, General Wesley Clark won Oklahoma in the Democratic primary. He was the only candidate since 2000 to win a state that he didn’t have home-court advantage in (i.e. a state where he was born, lived or served) after losing Iowa or New Hampshire. In other words: only one candidate since 2000 who lost both Iowa and New Hampshire went on to successfully campaign and win in a state they weren’t expected to win.

One might contest that Iowa or New Hampshire are predictive, not impactful, and candidates’ success after winning Iowa or New Hampshire just reflects the fact they were popular heading into the election. But the polls have, historically, told a different story. Nate Silver, who you first posed this question to, published data in 2011 that found the winners of Iowa, on average, got a 7-percentage-point bounce in New Hampshire. The bounce is inconsistent, though, and sometimes non-existent. Winning in Iowa also does not necessarily predict victory in New Hampshire, even though the two both have dominant older, white voting blocs. Still, if Buttigieg wins Iowa, as some polls predict he will, it’s quite possible that a victory there would help him close the gap in New Hampshire, too, and leave the first two states with a clean sweep. I’d imagine that there would be a sizable number of older, white Biden voters who would consider jumping ship if Buttigieg won Iowa or New Hampshire or both.

All of this, though, comes with a major caveat: many pollsters and campaign experts think the role Iowa plays in the election will change this year. That’s for two reasons. One, Democrats are increasingly reliant on non-white voters, of which there are few in Iowa and New Hampshire. This simple reality has a lot of people looking to South Carolina, which votes fourth on the primary calendar, as the first major test for Democratic nominees. South Carolina has a huge group of black, Democratic voters who seem to prefer Biden to the field, the same way non-white voters seem to prefer Biden to the field in Nevada (another early voting state).

The second reason Iowa’s role could change is that Iowa could end up having an unprecedented split. Democrats have a very complicated caucus system in Iowa. People attend the caucuses and literally move around a room, standing in sections denoted to the candidates of their choice, all trying to form 15 percent or greater support. If a candidate doesn’t get 15 percent support in a precinct, they’re basically eliminated. Each candidate is vying for some or all of the 41 pledged delegates in Iowa, which are added together at the end of the race to determine the winner. But this year, some polls show Buttigieg, Biden, Warren and Sanders all with more than 15 percent support in Iowa. That’s totally unprecedented, and it could mean more than one candidate walks away from Iowa claiming victory, and could significantly mute the media hype around the winner. Splitting the delegates in Iowa four ways could really reduce the impact of the media’s coverage, the way donations come in, and how the polls move. And right now, that split is looking pretty possible.


A story that matters.

Yesterday, a video of Rick Wiles, a pastor, radio pundit, and host on the website TruNews, went viral. In it, Wiles went on a tangent about how “Jews” are out to get Donald Trump: “That's the way the Jews work,” he said. “They are deceivers. They plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda. This impeach Trump movement is a Jew Coup!" He then warned that the country could be in “Civil War” by Christmas and insisted members of the military step up. Wiles’ channel has 191,000 subscribers on YouTube. His website, TruNews, has had over 17 million views on its videos. He’s an alumnus of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which now lands interviews with Trump and Nikki Haley. Anti-semitism and insane conspiracy theories like this are rampant in the Christian-right, and nobody is really doing anything about it. Televangelists with millions of followers frequently tell their audiences that Hillary Clinton is demonically possessed or Democrats are working for Satan. One of the big issues at play is that Evangelical pastors do little to address anti-Semitism or bizarre conspiracy theories with their constituents, and this stuff continues to spread like wildfire.


Hoo boy.

Yesterday, I made some semi-disparaging comments about television news. So I will have to give it credit when credit is due. Chris Cuomo came prepared for this interview and shot down some of the popular Ukraine conspiracy theories in real-time with Rep. Randy Weber. It’s worth the watch.


Numbers.

  • 2.3 million. The number of people in prison in the United States of America.

  • 22%. The percentage of the total, global prison population residing in the United States.

  • 42%. The percentage of U.S. adults that gave money or volunteered for charity in the last year who said they gave to support education, the highest of any cause.

  • 2%. The percentage of Democratic primary voters who said they’d vote for Michael Bloomberg as of Nov. 10th, according to Morning Consult.

  • 5%. The percentage of Democratic primary voters who said they’d vote for Michael Bloomberg as of December 2nd, according to Morning Consult, putting him in a virtual tie with Kamala Harris.

  • $4,110,300. The amount of money Bloomberg spent on Google advertising last week, making him the top spending Democrat on the platform.

  • 7. The number of candidates to qualify for the next December debate after Tom Steyer met the bar last night. Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have all qualified.


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Have a nice day.

Scientists have discovered a new way to help rejuvenate dead coral reefs: speakers. The team is using underwater speakers to replicate the healthy sounds coral reefs make and it is attracting fish back to the reefs. The presence of the fish helps kickstart the natural recovery process and is giving “degraded patches of coral a chance of new life.” It’s a fascinating mix of technology, innovation and environmentalism. You can read more here.