Politics

Here's what happens next after chaos strikes the Iowa caucuses

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Key Points
  • After Iowa, candidates will first round out the rest of the so-called "early states" of New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
  • Nevada and South Carolina will test how the candidates fare in states with large minority populations, which will be key to winning the Democratic nomination. 
  • After the early states come Super Tuesday, which awards about a third of the total delegates of the Democratic primary.
Votes are counted during caucusing in the 66th precinct at Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 3, 2020.
Jim Watson | Getty Images

The results of the Iowa caucuses were delayed on Monday, after the Iowa Democratic Party said that it was running "quality checks" on the data provided by precincts around the state.

As Monday dragged into Tuesday, however, it became evident that Iowa Democrats had a big mess on their hands involving the count. Shortly before midnight ET, a representative for the party blamed a "reporting issue" as results had yet to be revealed. In a statement in the early hours of the morning, Iowa Democrats Chair Troy Price said the results would be released later on Tuesday.

But, whoever ends up winning the Hawkeye State's caucus, all of the candidates will soon have to turn their attention to the next contests.

Three more 'early states'

The first stop after Iowa is New Hampshire, where the candidates will compete in the first-in-the-nation primary. The New Hampshire primary takes place in just over a week — on Feb. 11. After New Hampshire comes Nevada on Feb. 22 and then South Carolina on Feb. 29 to round out the month.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently the leader in state polls of Nevada and South Carolina, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is the front-runner in New Hampshire. Other top contenders include former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. and the billionaire businessman Tom Steyer.

The first four states don't matter much in terms of accumulating the delegates the candidates need to win the race — in total, they account for fewer than 200 of the approximately 2,000 needed to win — but they are the tone-setters of the primary and are generally predictive of the eventual nominee.

Nevada and South Carolina could be particularly important because their Democratic voting populations are more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire. Nevada's population is 29% Latino and South Carolina's is 27% black.

Black and Latino voters are particularly crucial to Democratic hopefuls. No Democrat has won the nomination without a majority of black voters since Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988. Latino voters, meanwhile, are expected to be the largest minority voting bloc in November. California, the biggest prize of the Democratic primary, is 40% Latino.

Three more debates

February will be packed with three Democratic debate hosted in the remaining early voting states. The eighth, ninth and tenth debates will take place in Manchester, New Hampshire, Las Vegas and Charleston, South Carolina.

So far, seven candidates have qualified for the Feb. 7 debate, including the businessman Andrew Yang, who did not qualify for the January debate in Iowa. The other candidates set to be on stage are Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Steyer.

Voters may get a chance to assess billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg during the ninth Democratic debate, in Nevada, on Feb. 19. The Democratic National Committee required candidates to meet a minimum-donor threshold for earlier debates, effectively disqualifying Bloomberg, who does not accept contributions.

The party scrapped that requirement on Friday, opening the door for Bloomberg to potentially appear on stage if he meets the polling requirements. So far, only Biden, Sanders and Warren have qualified.

The tenth Democratic debate is scheduled to take place in Charleston on Feb. 29.

Super Tuesday and the March states

The biggest single day of the Democratic primary race, Super Tuesday, will see a third of the total delegates awarded.

Among the 16 contests slated for voting on March 3 are: California, which will award 415 delegates; Texas, which will award 228; North Carolina, which will award 110; and Virginia, which will award 99.

To put those delegate hauls into perspective: To win on the first ballot during the Democratic National Convention in July, candidates will need to secure 1,990 delegates.

Because so many large states are voting at the same time, the Super Tuesday states require a different sort of campaigning from the contenders than the relatively small, retail politics driven early states.

Candidates will need to raise and spend millions of dollars on advertising to bring their messages across the country, giving an advantage to candidates with broad small-dollar donor bases like Sanders and Warren as well as self-funded billionaires like Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, who spent Monday in California, is skipping the early states to focus on the bigger states that vote in March, including after Super Tuesday.

In total, the March states will award more than half the total delegates of the Democratic primary.

Twenty-four contests take place between march and the final primary hosted in June. The nominee will be named officially at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in July.