And perhaps as encouraging for Buttigieg moving forward is this: He did it with a remarkably broad base of support. It’s the kind of base, in fact, that might tempt Democrats to believe in the electability of a candidate whom few ever gave any hope of actually facing off with President Trump in the general election.
The Iowa results, it’s important to emphasize, don’t put to rest extremely important questions about whether Buttigieg can win among minority voters. Iowa is an overwhelmingly white state, and that’s a problem he’ll need to address to have any shot at the nomination. But they do suggest he’s got substantial appeal to just about every other demographic group — at least in this one Midwestern state.
The entrance polls in Iowa are still somewhat preliminary, as we wait for the rest of the results to roll in. (Buttigieg has 26.2 percent of state delegate equivalents, leading Bernie Sanders’s 26.1 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.) But they show Buttigieg winning at least 1 out of every 5 votes across the vast, vast majority of demographics. He also finishes in first or second place among almost all the big demographic groups.
Look at gender:
- Women: 1st place (24 percent)
- Men: 2nd (21 percent)
- 17- to 29-year-olds: 2nd (19 percent)
- 30- to 44-year-olds: 2nd (23 percent)
- 45- to 64-year-olds: 1st (26 percent)
- Non-college graduates: tied for 2nd (24 percent)
- College grads: 1st (23 percent)
- Democrats: 1st (23 percent)
- Independents: 2nd (21 percent)
- Liberals: 2nd (21 percent)
- Moderates: tied for 1st (25 percent)
- Foreign policy: 2nd (22 percent)
- Health care: tied for 1st (24 percent)
- Climate change: tied for 1st (26 percent)
- Suburbs: 2nd (23 percent)
- Rural: 1st (23 percent)
- Cities over 50,000: 2nd (21 percent)
You get the idea. Looking at these numbers, it becomes evident why Buttigieg was able to do so well. His amenability to all types of voters allowed him to hit the 15 percent viability threshold at more caucus sites than any other candidate — including Sanders, by a healthy clip — and it also made him the most popular backup option for voters whose candidates didn’t reach 15 percent, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reports.
That level of support across demographic groups doesn’t exist for the other candidates. Joe Biden, notably, struggles badly with younger voters (just 4 percent of those between 17 and 44 years old) and liberals (11 percent). Sanders struggles among older voters (8 percent of those 45 or older) and moderates (12 percent).
The only demographics in these categories in which Buttigieg isn’t first or second are 65-plus voters and those who prioritize income inequality above other issues. Even there, though, they don’t point toward huge liabilities. He takes 21 percent of senior citizens (virtually tied with Amy Klobuchar for second) and 14 percent of income inequality voters — again, based upon numbers that could still shift.
The last one is one of the very few Iowa demographics in which Buttigieg falls significantly below 20 percent. You have to get more granular to find others where he struggles. If you look not just at liberal voters but “very liberal” ones, he drops to 12 percent. Two others are supporters of single-payer health care (16 percent) and people who backed Sanders in 2016 (14 percent). And those make perfect sense, given that he opposes Medicare-for-all and that Sanders was running again.
The only other demographic in which he lags is the big one for Buttigieg: Nonwhite voters, with whom he is at 15 percent in Iowa’s relatively small sample. He’s barely shown a pulse with them nationwide, and once the process moves beyond lily-white Iowa and then New Hampshire, that could prove a dealbreaker when it comes to his chances at winning the Democratic nomination.
Those voters will also be important to whoever eventually becomes the Democratic nominee, because the party will need them to turn out in the general election given how big a portion of the party base they represent. And nobody should play down the significance of that for Buttigieg. Iowa doesn’t really address that question.
But if you’re looking for a candidate who seems to have demonstrated a real appeal to a broad array of demographic groups, and you want the Democratic nominee to be able to do that in Midwestern states — such as, say, Michigan and Wisconsin — Iowa tells a positive story for Buttigieg, even if he doesn’t wind up in front of Sanders.
And that goes double if the previous “electability” candidate in this race, Biden, is unable to recover from the “gut punch” he suffered in Iowa.