It took until the wee hours of the early morning, but at 2:27 AM the Iowa Democratic Party released a statement on the “historically close” results of the 2016 Iowa Caucus. Hillary Clinton had taken the lead and won the caucus with 699.57 state delegate equivalents, with Bernie Sanders totaling 695.49 state delegate equivalents. Martin O’Malley, interestingly enough, made up more than the spread with a small 7.68 state delegate equivalents.
Democrats claimed a turnout of 171,109 across the state, and reports from dozens of precincts saw massive lines and volunteers running out of voter registration forms. The wave of caucus-goers both new and old was simply too much for O’Malley to obtain viability in many places, and the former Maryland governor dropped out that night at his caucus night party in Des Moines.
This may not yet be the end of the story of the caucus results, however. One precinct, Des Moines 42, remains outstanding, though it doesn’t account for enough delegates to change the winner of the race. But the Iowa Democratic Party’s release notably did not call Clinton the winner (the Clinton campaign did). With such a close margin, it’s entirely possible a few reporting errors, however honest the mistakes were, could potentially move the numbers. Expect the Sanders campaign to dispute the final total.
The Sanders Iowa team also took some shots at the Iowa Democratic Party on Monday night, accusing the slow final precinct reports to be due to the party’s failure to line up precinct chairs for 90 locations around the state. However, much of the news media took that and blew it up into something untrue, with many suggesting the party had outright lost 90 precincts’ results. That was not the case. Much more will likely be made of how long it took the final count to emerge.
The results are both good and bad for both sides, and effectively a tie in terms of what it means.
On the positive side for both, Iowa was never a clear win for Hillary Clinton, despite her early lead. This state is custom-made for challenger candidates, and there’s a reason she invested so heavily early on. Her win, however narrow, is a real accomplishment. For Sanders, getting this close to the front-runner is a big victory, given how far he’s come over the past seven months. It shows he has real viability for the entirety of the nomination fight and will energize his supporters for the long haul.
But it also wasn’t that great for either as well, as for intents and purposes, this was a tie. For Clinton, just barely eking out a win showed she still has real vulnerabilities as a candidate. And “effective tie” is simply not nearly as great a headline for Sanders as “Sanders upsets Clinton,” even if it would’ve been by just a few delegates.
So the race goes on. And likely on, and on, and on. To New Hampshire next, where Sanders is likely to maintain his lead and win in a week and a half. Then on through possibly every other state in the country, as it could take the entire nominating calendar to decide this race. Sanders has clearly tapped into an underlying passion that could sweep across the country. But Clinton remains the leader and won’t be knocked off easily.
If there’s one thing that should majorly concern Clinton, it’s that she won’t have a massive, well-experienced team that’s organized for nine months in the later states. Her Iowa operation saved her from potential disaster in Iowa. They’ll all be deployed to the upcoming states, but it won’t be for nearly as long, and in much larger states at times.
Most dangerous of all: look at the Republican side. Marco Rubio placed an extremely strong third place while Donald Trump finished a disappointing second. The Republicans may yet get their act together and nominate a highly electable candidate. That’s bad news for whichever Democrat emerges from the primary.
by Pat Rynard