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Democratic Adviser Reacts To What Happened In Iowa


The results of the Iowa caucuses are finally trickling out a day after issues with an app threw the vote count into chaos. Early numbers position Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders in a tight race for first, followed by Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. We're joined now by Patti Solis Doyle. She's worked on multiple Democratic presidential campaigns.

Welcome to the program.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: And we should say right now you're not affiliated with any of the campaigns currently.

SOLIS DOYLE: I am not.

CORNISH: What does it mean to you that Pete Buttigieg is neck and neck with Bernie Sanders, given that Sanders has raised so much money and essentially been campaigning in Iowa since 2015?

SOLIS DOYLE: That's exactly right. Pete Buttigieg is the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. He started this race with little to no national name recognition. He started this race with little to no money. He managed to, if the numbers hold, win the first-in-the-nation caucus.

CORNISH: But based on your experience, is that a reflection of very good work by this campaign or maybe, you know, not a good use of money by the Sanders' campaign?

SOLIS DOYLE: The way it - you know, national campaigns go, the first state, if you win it, gives you an opportunity to really gain momentum, raise money, prove your electability, prove your viability. And that's why people spend so much time in the first two states, in Iowa and New Hampshire. That's why they spend so much money. That's why they, as Kamala Harris said, move to Iowa. That's the result that you want. You want to be able to catapult yourself into not only the rest of the four states but into Super Tuesday, where there's a delegate bonanza. And so I think, very much like Barack Obama did in 2008 - and winning Iowa catapulted him to the presidency - Pete Buttigieg and his team said, we're going to lay it all in Iowa. And he spent all of his money - most of his money in that state. He, you know, hired and trained an incredible organization. And it looks like it's paying off for him.

CORNISH: Can I jump in here?


CORNISH: You mentioned electability earlier, and a big part of the Biden pitch had been electability. We're looking at these early returns from Iowa and seeing fourth place. So does his campaign need to reassess the message of his candidacy?

SOLIS DOYLE: Well, if you're Joe Biden right now, you're very disappointed at this turnout. You're very disappointed at this showing. This is - we just talked about Pete Buttigieg, who started this race with little to no name recognition. You know, Joe Biden is a two-term vice president. He came into this race with 100% name recognition, so this is a real disappointment. This is not a good showing for him. And what it means for him, rather than gaining that momentum, rather than going into New Hampshire with a boost of energy and enthusiasm - he started this race in Iowa. He's - with not a lot of money cash on hand. And now this disappointing showing has really - is not going to allow him to raise the needed money to continue the race going on into Super Tuesday. So he's in a real bind right now.

CORNISH: We just have a few moments left. Does this shake Iowa's status as first?

SOLIS DOYLE: Absolutely, without question; I would be very surprised if Iowa continues to be the first in the nation. There was an - already an undercurrent growing. You know, and it's not a diverse state. The caucuses is not a fair system. It's not very democratic. You know, there are not a lot of people who can take three hours on a Monday night to go and caucus - people with children, people who work shifts. It's just not very inclusive. And so when you add this debacle onto, you know, the already existing criticisms, I don't think it can withstand it.

CORNISH: That's Patti Solis Doyle, partner at the Brunswick Group.

Thank you.

SOLIS DOYLE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.