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FiveThirtyEight forecast: Joe Biden will win Iowa caucus

Based on the averages, FiveThirtyEight determines Biden has a 1-in-3 chance of winning the most votes.
Election 2020 Joe Biden

We’re just over a week out from Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, and FiveThirtyEight has predicted former Vice President Joe Biden to win.

FiveThirtyEight, an extension of ABC News focused on statistical analysis of opinion polls as well as politics and economics, uses a Primary Model to forecast the outcomes of each state’s caucuses and primaries.

Something to keep in mind: the model is a forecast of how the elections may take place on their scheduled days, not a telling of what elections would look like if they happened today. FiveThirtyEight also notes that there is plenty of margin for error, and that there isn’t really a way to definitively predict the outcomes of any given race.

Generally, the farther out the primary or caucus is, the harder it is to forecast. But Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight’s Editor-in-Chief, recognizes that even Iowa’s caucuses, which are just 10 days away, have their share of possibilities.

So, with the multitude of factors in mind, FiveThirtyEight forecasts Biden to come out on top in Iowa.

Biden has been the favorite to win Iowa for most of the campaign process. He was ahead substantially in the polls early on, leading by as much as 16 percent above the next-highest candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in May 2019.

Biden’s numbers have dropped since then, with surges from Sanders, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, all three of which have led in the polls at points throughout the process.

But as of Jan. 24, Biden back on top with 21.4 percent of the vote, according to FiveThirtyEight.

His lead is significantly narrower than it was in May, as Sanders is in second, only down about three percent. Buttigieg and Warren are still very much in it as well, and their race for third is about as tight as they come, showing 16.4 and 16.2 percent of the vote, respectively.

Those numbers, which FiveThirtyEight provides, are an average of all recent polls based on their quality, recency and sample size. So there is the constant possibility of change, depending on when new polls are released and where they come from.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Biden takes anywhere from eight to 47 percent in 80 percent of simulations, which averages out to 28 percent of the vote. That’s the highest average of any of the democratic candidates, with Sanders behind him at 22 percent.

Based on the averages, FiveThirtyEight determines Biden has a 1-in-3 chance of winning the most votes, the highest among candidates. Just behind him is Sanders with a one-in-four chance, Buttigieg with a one-in-five chance and Warren with a one-in-six chance.

The margin widens significantly after that, with the next-highest after Warren, Amy Klobuchar, sitting at a 1-in-30 chance to take the victory in Iowa.

But it’s not just the individual votes that matter.

Iowa awards 41 pledged delegates: 14 come based on statewide vote, and the other 27 are disbursed across the four congressional districts and awarded based on voting throughout the specific districts.

As far as delegate predictions go, Biden is forecast to win an average of 13 delegates, with the number ranging between zero and 23 delegates in 80 percent of simulations. Based on that number, his chances jump up to 2-in-5 (37 percent) to win the most delegates, as opposed to the 1-in-3 (33 percent) chance to get the most votes.

Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren aren’t far behind. Sanders averages 10 delegates, while Buttigieg and Warren both average eight.

With all that being said, a forecast is a forecast (you know, like in weather).

Meet the Democratic candidates running for president

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

Billionaire Tom Steyer

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren

Businessman Andrew Yang