No matter what happens on Monday night Joe Biden will have hit the high water mark in his multiple runs for president.
All the former Vice-President needs to do is receive more than 1% and he will have bested his 2008 showing.
But that might be the only good news for the Democratic front runner as Democrats congregate in sundry locales to kick off the first actual contest of the 2020 presidential cycle
Despite being the heavy establishment favorite and possessing the status of a former Veep, Biden is struggling with an expectations game that he will all but certain fall short of meeting in terms of performance.
The ex-vice-president needs a strong win to inspire confidence in his viability both within the primaries and later in the general election. And the polling data isn’t looking favorable.
In the last few surveys Biden runs first in two with modest margins of three and six percent but not polling near 30% in any, as one would assume considering his total name ID and support by the political class.
Biden’s chief rival is Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders who leads in three polls, with his gap over the former Vice-President in the 8-9 point range.
And if polling from four years ago is a fair indication of how the socialist will finish, then Sanders should leave the Hawkeye State with not just a win but a rout as the Vermont senator support level was underpolled then.
If Sanders hits north of 30% in a still crowded field of Democratic candidates, his first place win will look even more impressive.
To say a Bernie blowout in Iowa would rock the Democratic Party would be an understatement and he would head into his neighboring state’s contest with serious momentum.
Beyond Sanders and Biden, a handful of other candidates are making stands in Iowa: US Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.
While currently out of striking distance of first, a second place showing by any of the three would be the real story of the night and would essentially bury either a third place Biden or Sanders much like how Vermont Governor Howard Dean didn’t survive his third place tumble in the 2004 caucus…along with his “victory scream.”
In the case of Klobuchar, whose bid has been a point of near-obsession by Matt Drudge, Iowa becomes a launching pad or a cemetery for her presidential candidacy. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s more civil Judge Kavanaugh questioner might limp out with a bronze but really needs a silver to gain traction.
A second place ending for Mayor Pete would pad cred for a campaign that was condescendingly dismissed by the New York Times as being premature, practically patting the openly gay candidate on the head in their Klobuchar-Warren joint endorsement.
As for Warren, the candidate everyone thought would emerge as the alternative to Biden, finds herself chasing radical policy positions to score free press from a very sympathetic media.
While the professor moves on to New Hampshire regardless of how things go in Iowa, the outlook is overall bleak short of a surprising finish in the caucuses and a win next week in New Hampshire.
Warren needs Sanders to stumble and Biden to be forced out before Super Tuesday.