Hillary Clinton emerged victorious in Iowa on Monday night, but it was a close call.
So close, in fact, that Bernie Sanders wants a recount.
It was “a virtual tie,” Sanders said, describing the proceedings which ended with the Vermont senator being awarded 695.49 state delegate equivalents to Clinton’s 699.57. “After thorough reporting — and analysis — of results, there is no uncertainty and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates,” Clinton's Iowa campaign manager Matt Paul said in a statement.
Sanders wants the Democratic party to release the a raw vote count, a rare move, but one he believes is necessary for full transparency.
“I honestly don’t know what happened. I know there are some precincts that have still not reported. I can only hope and expect that the count will be honest,” he said. “I have no idea. Did we win the popular vote? I don’t know, but as much information as possible should be made available.”
“People said we had an inferior ground game, that we didn’t have as good an understanding of the state,” Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver told reporters. “I think we certainly demonstrated that we had at least as good a ground game and I would argue that we had a better one because we started out [as underdogs].”
Maybe so, but Sanders' coin flip game was certainly inferior to Clinton's and it may have cost him a delegate or two. Or three. Or five.
Here's what happened in precinct 2-4 in Ames as recounted by David Schweingruber, an associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University who participated in the caucus (from The Des Moines Register):
A total of 484 eligible caucus attendees were initially recorded at the site. But when each candidate’s preference group was counted, Clinton had 240 supporters, Sanders had 179 and Martin O’Malley had five (causing him to be declared non-viable).
Those figures add up to just 424 participants, leaving 60 apparently missing. When those numbers were plugged into the formula that determines delegate allocations, Clinton received four delegates and Sanders received three — leaving one delegate unassigned.
Unable to account for that numerical discrepancy and the orphan delegate it produced, the Sanders campaign challenged the results and precinct leaders called a Democratic Party hot line set up to advise on such situations.
Party officials recommended they settle the dispute with a coin toss.
A Clinton supporter correctly called “heads” on a quarter flipped in the air, and Clinton received a fifth delegate.
Similar situations were reported elsewhere, including at a precinct in Des Moines, atanother precinct in Des Moines, in Newton, in West Branch and in Davenport. In all five situations, Clinton won the toss.
When all was said and done, Clinton won six consecutive coin tosses which shouldn't come as a surprise. Clinton's pretty lucky when it comes to beating the odds as her cattle futures trading record makes abundantly clear.
"In another race, those heads-or-tails contests may not have mattered," The Washington Post wrote this morning. "But, early Tuesday, Clinton was ahead of Sanders in Iowa by just four “state delegate equivalents,” [and] given that slim margin and the unknown intentions of Martin O’Malley’s eight SDEs now that the former Maryland governor has suspended his presidential campaign, those coin flips are looking mighty significant."
Here's the absurdity caught on film as incredulous and visibly exasperated caucus goers flip for delegates.
There you have it. Efficient democratic procedures on full display in Iowa.
If that wasn't exciting enough for you, here's another flip clip:
— David Beard (@dabeard) February 2, 2016
It's no wonder Sanders wants to see the raw vote. Here's another account from Davenport courtesy of The Washington Post:
In Davenport, another precinct tied 84-84. It was time for someone to stretch out that thumb.
“Bernie’s side has called heads,” the coin tosser said, as documented in Davenport in a video posted by Robert Schule. As if to lend the proceedings an official air, she further explained the procedure: “I’m going to let the coin hit the floor.”
Gravity, of course, wins every caucus — the coin fell to Earth as expected. “No one touch it!” someone shouted. Tails again! Cheers erupted from the Clinton camp — and heads proved a loser for Sanders once more.
At the end of the day we suppose there's a bit of symbolism here. Establishment politician or "protest" candidate, most Americans doubt any real change is coming to Washington in 2016 regardless of who prevails in the national election.
In that sense, it's all one big coin flip anyway.