WASHINGTON — Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard barely registered with voters in Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
The Democratic Party of Iowa released its first round of results Tuesday after a series of complications the night before prevented any numbers from being made public.
With 62% of Iowa’s precincts reporting, Gabbard received only about a dozen votes, which counted as a 0.0% share of the state’s delegates.
Instead, Hawkeye State caucus goers threw most of their support behind former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who received 26.9%% and 25.1% respectively.
Rounding out the top five were Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 18.3%, former Vice President Joe Biden with 15.6% and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 12.6%.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire Tom Steyer also received a slight share in the delegate count with 1% and 0.3%.
Under Iowa caucus rules, participants make an initial selection of their preferred candidate. If that candidate doesn’t receive at least 15% support they are considered unviable and their backers are forced to convince more people to join them, move on to their second choice or remain undecided.
The final tally is used to calculate the number of state delegates that are then awarded to each candidate. Those delegates then determine how many of Iowa’s 41 national delegates are awarded to each candidate at the Democratic National Convention in July.
Gabbard’s campaign did not respond to a Civil Beat request for an interview.
But in a statement released Tuesday, Gabbard said she was focusing her attention on New Hampshire, and that she was “heartened” by the Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Libertarians who were supporting her campaign.
She also used the opportunity to highlight the main plank of her campaign platform, which is focused on ending American involvement in regime-change wars.
“The voters of New Hampshire understand that our counter-productive foreign policy takes dollars directly out of their pockets and their communities,” Gabbard said. “And the hyper-partisan political atmosphere that dominates Washington does not represent them.”
Gabbard’s campaign all but abandoned Iowa.
According to the Des Moines Register candidate tracker, Gabbard held at least 69 events in the Hawkeye State over the course of 36 days from February 2019 to October. The congresswoman had already been making periodic trips to Iowa as early as 2018.
Mitch Henry, who’s a founder of the Asian Latino Coalition, a group that invited Gabbard to speak to its members early on in her candidacy, said there are a number of reasons the congresswoman struggled in Iowa, one of the first being a lack of resources.
“For you to get any traction you have to invest,” Henry said. “You have to invest early and you have to be consistent and persistent. You have to get a ground game going.”
The latest filings from the Federal Election Commission show Gabbard raised just over $12.6 million in 2019, including a transfer of $2.5 million from her congressional account.
While that might seem like a lot of money, it pales when compared to the other candidates in the field, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ($109 million), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($82 million), former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($76.7 million), and former Vice President Joe Biden ($61 million).
Even next tier candidates, such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang ($31.7 million) and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ($29 million), raised more money than Gabbard.
The Hawaii congresswoman pumped a lot of resources into yard signs and billboards — Henry says he still sees them scattered throughout his neighborhood in downtown Des Moines — but she didn’t spend a lot of money hiring campaign workers.
Instead, Henry said Gabbard relied heavily on volunteers, which doesn’t make for a winning recipe.
“She invested a lot in signage early on and that’s great, but it takes more than yard signs and billboards to win an election,” Henry said. “You need a field operation, and 99% of your field operation can’t be volunteers. You have to have a lot of staff to do that messaging.”
He said the congresswoman also hit some hurdles early on in her campaign. Shortly after she announced her candidacy questions were raised about her past views opposing same-sex marriage.
Her 2017 secret meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who’s been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people, has also continued to haunt her.
Henry said Gabbard’s decision to vote “present” during the House of Representatives impeachment of Trump didn’t help either.
“A lot of things did not go her way,” he said, “But she has no one to blame but herself.”
Gabbard polled poorly in Iowa in the lead-up to Monday’s caucuses.
According to Real Clear Politics, the congresswoman’s polling average from March 2019 to February 2020 was 1.2%, which ranked her near the bottom among all candidates.
She hit 5% on one occasion in January, but that still left her tied for sixth place with billionaire Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
The congresswoman has gone all in on her efforts in New Hampshire, which holds its primary Feb. 11.
Gabbard’s campaign has said she’s spent more than 100 days campaigning in the Granite State. She even moved to New Hampshire to make it easier to host events and talk to potential voters.
Gabbard’s efforts have paid off, if only slightly. Her Real Clear Politics polling average in New Hampshire is 5.2%, which puts her ahead of Yang and Steyer, but is still only enough to rank her sixth behind Sanders, Biden, Warren, Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Gabbard’s campaign has been defined in large part by her focus on ending U.S. involvement in so-called regime change wars overseas and criticisms of the Democratic Party establishment.
Throughout her campaign, Gabbard has highlighted her service in the Hawaii Army National Guard, which included two deployments to the Middle East. She’s said that experience makes her uniquely qualified to be president.
She’s also attacked the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who Gabbard described as the “queen of the warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”
Gabbard’s attacks on Clinton came after the former first lady insinuated Gabbard was a “favorite of the Russians” during a podcast interview.
Gabbard has since sued Clinton for $50 million in a defamation lawsuit.
She’s also filed a $50 million lawsuit against Google, saying the tech giant tried to censor her campaign when it temporarily shut down her advertising account for six hours after the first primary debate due to what a spokesperson described as “unusual activity.”
John Hart, who’s the chair of the Communication Department at Hawaii Pacific University, said Gabbard probably won’t be too down on her showing in Iowa in large part because she’s made a conscious effort to focus her limited resources on New Hampshire.
“Her campaign, I think, has made the strategic decision to not worry about Iowa and go for New Hampshire,” Hart said. “New Hampshire in a lot of ways is a better fit for her in terms of voters being willing to vote for mavericks. I think she made the correct decision.”
Polls have shown that Gabbard does well with Democratic primary voters who identify as independent. She also does well with Libertarian leaning conservatives and people who voted for Trump in 2016.
Hart said he sees New Hampshire as Gabbard’s last stand, even if she does follow through on her promise to stay in the race until the Democratic National Convention in July. He said a good showing there could help the eventual nominee reconsider her for a cabinet position should they beat Trump in November.
“Tulsi’s do or die is New Hampshire,” Hart said. “It comes up soon and that would clearly be the last best hope for traction on this campaign, presuming, of course, that what she wants to do with this campaign is be president.”
Gabbard has already declared she won’t run for re-election. Hart says there’s been speculation she’s eying a career on television, perhaps as a highly paid political commentator.
“Who knows,” Hart said. “Fox News awaits.”
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.