The three top moderate candidates in the race — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar — are all running to win on tonight.
But they are also running to finish ahead of each other.
The thinking goes like this: With most operatives anticipating a win from Bernie Sanders tonight, the three candidates want to be able to leave the state claiming the title of top challenger to the Vermont senator.
This is because the race after Iowa will likely be viewed after as a contest between one or two progressives and another group of moderates, so finishing atop an ideological cohort could give the top candidates needed momentum in New Hampshire.
“Let’s face it. I need to have a good finish here in Iowa,” Buttigieg said on Sunday.
Biden, too, has been playing pundit and publicly downplaying the need to be first in Iowa.
“There’s a big difference between second and fourth,” Biden told CNN in Mount Pleasant. “I think it’s going to be really tight no matter how it works out. It’s been bunched up. It’s going to remain bunched up I think.”
He added: “I just think it’s a different year in that I think the measure, you all won’t do it now and I don’t mean it in a bad way, but I think what you’re going to have to measure is who can represent every aspect of the Democratic Party.”