Perspective on the Iowa Caucuses

Written by Cristal Gary, principal, Leavitt Partners

Two days after the Iowa caucuses we still don’t know who the official winner is, but we do know that health care was the top issue for caucus goers.  With polls consistently showing health care as the top issue for Iowa Democrats, the caucuses were set to be an early test of the different approaches of the leading candidates.   So what are the takeaways for Democrats?

According to entrance polls, 60 percent of caucus goers favored Medicare for All. Yet preliminary results show Pete Buttigieg, a champion of a more moderate Public Option approach, ahead in the delegate count.  This may indicate that voters care about fixing health care, but feel less strongly about the specific approach.  It is also a reminder that health care may be the leading policy issue, but the most pressing issue that is top of mind for Democratic voters is electability.  On the ground in Iowa, many caucus goers seemed willing to support a candidate they considered better positioned to be elected and deliver incremental change, than one who promised big, structural changes they might agree with in principle, but don’t believe could actually get done.

So, what does this mean for health care?  Obviously, it’s too early to tell.  It will be interesting to see if this dynamic continues to play out in other early states.  If so, a Medicare for All scenario seems even less likely.