After Iowa Democratic Party review, Hillary Clinton leads by smaller state delegate margin

After reviewing results in fourteen disputed precincts, the Iowa Democratic Party announced today that new calculations show Hillary Clinton received 700.47 state delegate equivalents (49.84 percent), Bernie Sanders received 696.92 state delegate equivalents (49.59 percent), and Martin O’Malley 7.63 state delegate equivalents (0.54 percent). I enclose below the full statement from the party, with details on the five precincts where county delegate totals had been misreported the night of February 1. In three of those precincts, the Iowa Democratic Party initially reported one too many county delegates for Clinton instead of Sanders. In one precinct, Sanders was allocated a county delegate that should have gone to Clinton. In the last precinct where results were corrected, Sanders was allocated a county delegate that should have gone to O’Malley.

Across 1,681 precincts assigning 11,065 county delegates, a few tabulation or reporting errors are to be expected. That’s why I supported a full review, to dispel any concerns about the accuracy of the results. Contrary to some conspiracy theories I have seen floating around social media, the Iowa Democratic Party could not systematically misreport county delegate totals to give Clinton the victory. Too many witnesses observe what happens in each precinct and would notice if the party got the numbers wrong.

In nine of the precincts the state party reviewed, reported results were found to be correct. The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs explained one supposed example of "fishy" math today. In an Ankeny precinct, 148 people caucused for Sanders and 128 for Clinton. The precinct’s eight county delegates split four to each candidate. Sanders supporter Tucker Melssen thought it was a mistake, and Sanders should have gotten more. Welcome to my world in 1988, Tucker. My candidate had a plurality of caucus-goers in the precinct, but our county delegates split evenly.

Party officials correctly applied the formula used to convert supporters to county delegates in Ankeny 12. Drew Miller’s caucus calculator reveals that if 276 people in a precinct allocating eight county delegates split 148 to 128, each candidate should indeed receive four delegates. Playing around with the calculator, you can see that if Ankeny 12 had allocated nine delegates, Sanders would have gotten five of them. Or, if you leave the delegate total at eight, Sanders would need 156 of the 276 caucus-goers to stand in his corner in order to get five of the precinct’s delegates.

Long before I knew there would be such a close result in an Iowa Democratic caucus, I objected to the sometimes distorting effects of caucus math. Since I published this post on Thursday, many naysayers have told me we can’t ever report raw supporter numbers for each candidate, the way Iowa Republicans caucus. In what other context do Democrats support a system where some voters have more influence over the results than others? Where your voice counts for less if you caucus in a high-turnout precinct or county? Where voters are not able to cast a secret ballot and are excluded from participating because of disability, work or family obligations?

Stop telling me what the Democratic National Committee and the New Hampshire secretary of state won’t "let" us do to improve the caucuses. Start thinking creatively about how we can make the system more representative and inclusive while preserving Iowa’s place in the nominating calendar. The first step is Iowa Democratic Party leaders being willing to fight for positive change, rather than digging in to defend a flawed status quo. I’m not the only one who sees the need for reform: Clinton supporter Brad Anderson and Sanders supporter Phil Roeder both have extensive Iowa Democratic campaign experience and called for change in recent days.

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My Experience at a Caucus

Guest author fladem lives in another state. He observed a precinct caucus in Urbandale (Polk County) in 2008 and saw some troubling things while volunteering for Bernie Sanders in three West Des Moines (Dallas County) precincts on Monday night. Note: people who are not eligible to participate in the Iowa caucuses are allowed to attend and help at a caucus, as long as they are not counted as part of any preference group. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I was a precinct captain for Bernie working in West Des Moines precincts 224 through 226.

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Get your heads out of the sand, Iowa Democratic Party leaders

Since 2007, I have been trying to raise awareness about problems with the Iowa Democratic caucus system: barriers to participation for many who want to have a voice in choosing our president; the fact that not every Democrat’s "vote" counts the same toward the delegate numbers; the lack of secrecy and potential for intimidation in caucus rooms; and the distorting effects of caucus math, starting with but not limited to the 15 percent viability threshold.

Again and again and again, I have urged my fellow Democrats to make our caucuses more inclusive and the results more representative of each candidate’s actual supporter numbers. I might as well have been pounding on the walls of a sound-proofed chamber, for all the impact my blogging has had on the Iowa Democratic Party’s leadership.

The slimmest margin ever between the top two Democratic presidential candidates lends new urgency to the task of cleaning up the caucuses. Yet state party chair Dr. Andy McGuire and others are holding the line against even a full review of the calculations that put Hillary Clinton ahead of Bernie Sanders by 700.59 state delegate equivalents to 696.82. They insist that any minor glitches on Monday night were resolved by 2:30 am, when the party sent out its press release declaring Clinton the winner. The results are final. Nothing to see here, folks.

The longer party leaders drag their feet, the more they will stoke conspiracy theories about the caucuses being stolen for the establishment’s favorite.

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Pollster Ann Selzer: I'm fine with being "demoted to 'silver standard'"

The Des Moines Register’s longtime pollster Ann Selzer identified the surge of first-time Democratic caucus-goers who would carry Barack Obama to victory in 2008. Her final poll before the 2012 Republican caucuses caught the strong upward momentum for Rick Santorum. Her last snapshot before this year’s caucuses for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics correctly saw a close race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with fewer first-time participants than eight years ago.

But Selzer’s view of the GOP campaign was unfortunately off the mark in several respects: putting Donald Trump ahead of Ted Cruz, underestimating turnout overall and particularly among evangelicals, and missing the late swing toward Marco Rubio that some political observers sensed by watching the campaign on the ground.

Yesterday Selzer commented to David Weigel of the Washington Post,

“In all the press I did in the last two days—and it was a LOT — I talked about the fluidity,” she wrote in an email. “Up to the last moment — including inside the caucus room — campaigns and supporters are working for change! Surprise! Big evangelical turnout — no doubt the biggest.” […]

“Trump was disliked by vast majority of caucus-goers who didn’t support him,” Selzer said. “Bernie’s extraordinary strength was with first-timers, who showed up in above-projected numbers. […]

“If I’m demoted to ‘silver standard,’ I’m fine with that,” she said. “I was never all that comfortable with the hype.”

Selzer can take some comfort in knowing that the last ten Iowa polls released before the caucuses all put Trump ahead of Cruz. The most recent poll to show Cruz leading was the Iowa State University/WHO-TV survey, which uses an unconventional screen for likely caucus-goers. But Iowa State/WHO understated support for Trump and Rubio. Given the tremendous difficulties involved in polling the Iowa caucuses, especially on the Democratic side, we should expect some misses, even from the top professionals in the field. As the presidential campaign progresses, here’s hoping political journalists will focus less on poll-driven horse race coverage.

UPDATE: Selzer did some "Tuesday morning quarterbacking" of her final poll in today’s Des Moines Register. I enclose excerpts below.

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Iowa caucus results thread

I will update this post throughout the evening. As of 9 pm, 75 percent of Democratic precincts have reported, and Hillary Clinton narrowly leads Bernie Sanders by 50.4 percent to 48.9 percent of state delegate equivalents. Martin O’Malley won less than 1 percent of the state delegate equivalents and is reportedly dropping out of the race. UPDATE: with 81 percent of precincts reporting (but not including some Iowa City and Cedar Rapids precincts), Clinton is barely ahead by 50.2 percent to 49.1 percent. Turnout seems to be considerably higher than I expected, which explains how well Sanders is doing. He could pull ahead to Clinton if she doesn’t have good counties and precincts outstanding.

The Republican race is too close to call between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, with about 75 percent of the votes counted. Marco Rubio is in third place. I noticed that Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal predicted a Cruz win, as did I. On the Republican side, only Cruz was running a traditional ground game. Supposedly the Trump campaign hired out its phone banking, and I never heard much about door-knocking on his behalf.

What happened in your precinct? Share your stories in the comments. I’ve posted what happened in Windsor Heights 2 below.

9:30 UPDATE: Television networks are calling the GOP race for Cruz. Mike Huckabee is dropping out of the race; he outperformed his polling numbers but is still way behind the leaders at around 7 percent.

9:45 UPDATE: With 88 percent of Democratic precincts reporting, Clinton is ahead by only 49.9 percent to 49.5 percent. Sanders could pull ahead.

10:30 UPDATE: Clinton is speaking now, which surprises me, because she’s only ahead by 50.1 percent to 49.4 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting. For some reason, the Iowa Democratic Party’s website is showing my own precinct (Windsor Heights 2) as not yet reporting. We were done by around 8:30.

11:20 UPDATE: With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton’s lead is down to 49.8 percent to 49.6 percent. A bunch of Polk County precincts are still outstanding, including mine. At least six precincts around the state had one delegate awarded by a coin flip.

12:00 am UPDATE: Steve Kornacki and Rachel Maddow got the coin flip story badly wrong on MSNBC, claiming the coin flips (all won by Clinton in the various precincts) accounted for Clinton’s statewide lead over Sanders. No. The coin flips resolve who would get the last remaining county delegate from a precinct. Clinton is ahead by a handful of state delegate equivalents.

12:50 am UPDATE: With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton leads by 49.9 percent to 49.6 percent. Just twelve precincts have not reported.

2 am: Make that ten precincts outstanding. I want to hear from Democrats who caucused in Des Moines precinct 43 at Roosevelt High School. There seems to have been some confusion about the count, and Sanders supporters online are accusing the precinct chair and the Clinton precinct captain of "fraud," based on this video. It’s not unusual for there to be some confusion or people missed during the count. We had to count our Clinton group twice last night.

2:30 am: The Iowa Democratic Party released a statement a few minutes ago, which I’ve enclosed below. According to the party, statewide turnout was 171,109, much higher than I expected but nearly 70,000 below the record turnout of 2008. The party says "Clinton has been awarded 699.57 state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 695.49 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.68 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents. We still have outstanding results in one precinct (Des Moines—42), which is worth 2.28 state delegate equivalents."

The outstanding precinct (Des Moines 42) is on the west side, bordering Windsor Heights. There is no clear trend in the six neighboring precincts, with Sanders and Clinton winning two each and the other two ending in a delegate tie.

With all the excitement on the Democratic side, I forgot to update the Republican results. They are after the jump. The GOP turnout of more than 180,000 was about 50 percent higher than their previous record turnout in 2012.

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How the Iowa caucuses work, part 5: A "pollster's nightmare"

Continuing a six-part series. Part 1 covered basic elements of the caucus system, part 2 explained why so many Iowans can’t or won’t attend their precinct caucus, part 3 discussed how Democratic caucus math can affect delegate counts, and part 4 described how precinct captains help campaigns.

Measuring the horse race ahead of the Iowa caucuses poses special challenges, particularly on the Democratic side. Those problems affect even the Des Moines Register’s longtime pollster Ann Selzer, whom FiveThirtyEight.com has given an A+ grade and called "the best pollster in politics."

Follow me after the jump to see why polling expert Mark Blumenthal has described the caucuses as a "pollster’s nightmare."

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