The Democratic Iowa caucus proceedings were a nail-biter for both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps. Some recent polls showed Sanders leading Clinton, and conventional wisdom suggested that high-turnout was good for the insurgent socialist Sanders, who is popular among progressive activists. The final tally put Clinton just slightly ahead of Sanders, with a spread of 49.9% to 49.5%. But Clinton’s declaration of victory is being viewed by many as illegitimate.
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As The Hill reported, “The Democrats do not rely on paper ballots for caucuses — supporters instead physically cluster together and are counted by precinct chairs. That means there are no provisions for a recount on the Democratic side, since those events are not possible to recreate.” Not only is the inability to do a recount problematic to begin with, there was the strange matter in this instance of lost delegates.
The Des Moines Register explained it this way:
“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.”
When faced with that situation, the Sanders campaigned called a Democratic Party hotline and Party officials actually recommended that they allocate the delegate using a coin toss. This happened in five other caucus situations as well and interestingly enough, Clinton’s camp won the toss each time. In the wake of this situation, the Sanders camp is obviously perturbed.
A Sanders aide is claiming that the Democratic Party of Iowa insufficiently staffed 90 caucus sites, which has led to the Party reaching out to campaigns to self-report the data – a problematic proposition in and of itself, but even more so because there’s no paper trail. The state Party is denying these allegations, but as The Hill reported, “The Iowa Democrats did not elaborate as to why the campaigns may have a better handle on where the party’s precinct chairs are than the party itself.”
Since a recount is impossible and the Democratic Party of Iowa is denying any wrongdoing, it doesn’t seem as if Sanders’ concerns will be met with with much response. This drama however, could have the effect of chilling Clinton’s support moving forward. Sanders’ backers are already fed up with the Democratic establishment to begin with, and this simply adds more fuel to their fire.
The current New Hampshire polling average calculated by Real Clear Politics shows Sanders with 55.8% and Clinton registering at 37.7% a week before the February 9th primary. The latest poll, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, shows Sanders with an astounding 63% and Clinton at 30%. New Hampshire borders Sanders’ home state of Vermont.
While Clinton’s camp is no doubt nervous, an aide said during the caucus that they were heartened to learn higher turnout didn’t lead to a Sanders upset. But it was certainly close enough to be a problem for them. While Clinton may well lose New Hampshire, her strategy is widely understood to be a focus on consolidating her base by the March 1st Super Tuesday contest. She polls much better with minorities and older Democrats than Sanders, and expects to perform better than him in most areas, particularly the south. It’s still possible however, that a New Hampshire victory could change Sanders’ fortunes and give Clinton yet another run for her money like an insurgent Barack Obama did in 2008.
Corie Whalen Stephens is a libertarian-conservative activist and writer based in Houston, Texas.
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