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As Final Totals Arrive, Iowa Is Still A Horse Race With Bernie And Pete

At this point, the difference in totals is tiny.
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If you can bear to watch Steve Kornacki, knock yourself out. He drills down into the numbers and explains what will go into determining the winner as we now have 97% of the returns.

I can tell you what didn't go into determining a winner: A DNC/Buttigieg conspiracy.

I know how much some people love their conspiracy theories (I'm still clinging to the one where E.T.s intervene before we blow up the world), but some of them are just idiotic. A lot of the people are determined to believe the Unified Field Theory of Anti-Bernie Conspiracies, but there's no "there" there.

Here's the deal. After the 2016 election, Tom Perez put together something called the Unity Reform Commission as a way of addressing the concerns of the Sanders campaign. During those negotiations, the Sanders people wanted Iowa to remain a caucus state; the DNC wanted a real primary, with direct voting.

Why did the Sanders people want Iowa to remain a caucus state? Because Iowa is a white, rural state and they thought Bernie would do better there, giving him momentum for the later primaries. Makes sense!

I spent an hour on the phone last night with someone who ran one of the biggest caucuses in Maine, and she walked me through the intricacies of caucus math.

What was the big hurdle in adding up the results? One problem is that the Sanders people wanted raw data included. Why? In a political campaign, it's easier to find a way to spin the results with raw data. Again, typical campaign thinking. As we saw Monday night, all the candidates were out there trying to spin the results as favorable. (Looking at you, Amy Klobuchar!)

HOWEVER: It's hard to reconcile the raw data with the final results. One of the reasons? Although they're not supposed to, some caucus goers do leave after the first round. It's been a long night, they're tired -- and their candidate didn't get enough supporters to reach the viability threshold. But when you're adding up numbers and trying to verify the totals, you have to account for all those missing caucus-goers. And if you're trying to avoid accusations of unfairness, you really want the numbers to be validated. (And remember, there were new changes by the Unity commission.)

All the information is there -- on paper. And after the 2012 fiasco in which Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa caucuses, but Mitt Romney was declared the winner, the state politicians try to be really cautious. (Which takes longer.)

How can a candidate win the popular vote in Iowa, but end up with fewer delegates than the runnerup -- which looks likely? Because the districts are weighted. The Iowa Dems wanted to discourage big-money candidates who could parachute in and campaign only in high-population areas.

Those are the basics. So no, we're not shilling for the DNC when we tell you to stop with the conspiracy theories. The Iowa caucuses are an arcane and complex affair at best -- which is why this was most likely the last one ever.

Finally, about that app. (It helps if you understand the insular, frat-boy network of Democratic campaign operatives. They know each other, they boost each other, and in far too many cases, it's a matter of failing upward.) Arrogant white guys, not doing the work. People who know each other, investing in the app and recommending the company to the state parties. The app failed. Sh*t happens.

It's not pretty, but it's not unusual. And it's not aimed at your candidate. Let the flame wars begin!

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