And the Winner of the Iowa Caucus Is: Hillary Clinton (Barely)

AP Photo

The Associated Press has declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, overcoming a feared but unanticipated strong showing by Sen. Bernie Sanders. Her narrow victory in the first contest in the 2016 race for president was decided in part by the toss of a coin, reports The Des Moines Register.

The head of the Iowa Democratic Party, Dr. Andy McGuire, called the outcome historic. 

“The results tonight are the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history. Hillary Clinton has been awarded 700.59  state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 696.82 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.61 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents.”

While that may sound confusing — delegate equivalents reflect the number of delegates to the state party convention a candidate has won and are then used to calculate delegates to the national convention — the numbers that matter in Iowa are the 44 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, where the party's official nominee will be named. AP notes that delegates are awarded proportionately, "based on the statewide vote as well as the vote in the individual congressional districts." A total of 23 were won by Clinton, and 21 were won by Sanders. According to the AP, Clinton’s advantage is in her number of “superdelegates” — the party officials who can switch their support to the candidate of their choice. Adding them to her war chest, Clinton is far ahead with a total of 385 delegates. Sanders has 29.

A minimum of 2,382 delegates is required to win the Democratic nomination for president.

O’Malley suspended his campaign after getting trounced by Clinton and Sanders.  

There will be no recount, the Iowa Democratic Party announced, nor does Sanders’s campaign have "any plan or intention" to challenge the results, spokesman Ted Devine told the wire service.

Although Sanders pronounced the race "a virtual tie,” Clinton declared Tuesday that she was "so proud I am coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa,” the AP reports. Leaving no hint that Iowa was anything but a victory, the former secretary of State, former U.S. senator, and former first lady told supporters, “I've won and I've lost there and it's a lot better to win."

Clinton was referring to her 2008 campaign for president, which was harpooned by an unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa from a then-relatively unknown senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, notes USA Today

The next primary takes place in New Hampshire February 9. 

In an arcane throwback to politics of old, some of Iowa's Democratic caucus precincts on Monday awarded their delegates with a coin toss, reports the Register.

Supporters of Sanders and Clinton disputed the results in Ames after 60 caucus participants reportedly disappeared from the proceedings. The coin toss, an Iowa caucus tradition, gave Clinton one additional delegate, giving her five of that precinct’s eight, while Sanders received three.

The same scenario happened at precincts across the state, notes the Register, but had a negligible effect on the final outcome. That’s because the delegates that were decided by coin flips were merely delegates to the party's county conventions, not the statewide delegate equivalents reported in the final results. County delegates chosen at a handful of precincts account for only a tiny fraction of the overall outcome.

Monday night, Clinton's campaign declared victory by 9:30 p.m. local time, while all of the major networks reported the race too close to call

Taking the stage roughly a half hour after Clinton, Sanders gave what out MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called the "fourth victory speech of the night," referencing Clinton's speech as well as Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio's optimistic speeches to supporters. 

In his speech, Sanders channeled the populist message that has carried his campaign, noting that nine months ago, staffers and volunteers came to Iowa with a mission to taking on "the most powerful political organization in the country." 

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