Last night in Iowa, coin tosses helped Hillary Clinton eke out a narrow win over Bernie Sanders, while Ted Cruz was the winning WHannabe. But what did all of that mean? (More)

“He ran an energetic and honorable campaign”

The first thing it means is that the Democratic primary campaign is now officially a heads-up race:

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced the end of his 2016 Democratic presidential campaign on Monday night during the Iowa caucuses.
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“In a tough, unprecedented year, O’Malley spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate and remained the most accessible. He ran an energetic and honorable campaign – leading the field with the most bold, progressive policy proposals, and he successfully pushed the other candidates on gun safety, immigration and climate policy,” an O’Malley source said.

Mike Huckabee dropped out of the WHannabe race as well:

In 2016, Huckabee struggled to consistently stay on the main stage in Republican presidential debates, never raised more than $15 million at one time, and failed to rally the same evangelical support he won in his last presidential run. One of the most conspicuous blows to his campaign came when Bob Vander Plaats endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, denying Huckabee a critical ally in the contest to win over Iowa’s evangelicals.

Internally, Huckabee’s team suffered staffing bumps. In December 2015 Alice Stewart, Huckabee’s communications director, departed due to divergent visions with other staffers on the direction of the campaign and the press shop. Stewart, like Vander Plaats, joined up with Cruz.

Neither O’Malley’s nor Huckabee’s withdrawals were a surprise, as both campaigns put almost all of their sparse resources into last-ditch Iowa campaigns.

“How do you win five coin tosses in a row?”

Hillary Clinton won 23 statewide delegates to Bernie Sanders’ 21, with a 700-695 local vote margin that included five coin tosses:

In a handful of Democratic caucus precincts Monday, a delegate was awarded with a coin toss.

It happened in precinct 2-4 in Ames, where supporters of candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton disputed the results after 60 caucus participants apparently disappeared from the proceedings.
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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.
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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, at another precinct in Des Moines, in Newton, in West Branch and in Davenport. In all five situations, Clinton won the toss.

Of course that sparked reader comment speculation that the Clinton campaign rigged the coin tosses, because “How do you win five coin tosses in a row?”

But in fact that’s not hugely surprising. The probability of winning all five coin tosses is 1-in-32. If you do a five-coin-toss game once a day every day … then by the 21st day someone will probably have had a five-win day.

Other readers complained that coin tosses were used at all. But it’s a common way to resolve ties or, as here, discrepancies between attendee and vote totals. The bottom line is that, for Democrats, the Iowa caucuses were a tie …

“He failed to win a state tailor made to his strengths”

… and the New York TimesNate Cohn says that was better news for Clinton than for Sanders:

Bernie Sanders is right: The Iowa Democratic caucuses were a “virtual tie,” especially after you consider that the results aren’t even actual vote tallies, but state delegate equivalents subject to all kinds of messy rounding rules and potential geographic biases.

The official tally, for now, is Hillary Clinton at 49.9 percent, and Mr. Sanders at 49.6 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting early Tuesday morning.

But in the end, a virtual tie in Iowa is an acceptable, if not ideal, result for Mrs. Clinton and an ominous one for Mr. Sanders. He failed to win a state tailor made to his strengths.

Cohn notes that Iowa Democratic caucus attendees were 91% white, a percentage that may be matched next week in New Hampshire. But people of color will be a much higher percentage of Democratic voters in South Carolina and Nevada later this month and – despite his attempts at outreach – Sanders’ supporters are almost exclusively white. But that doesn’t mean he’s sweeping white Democrats:

In the end, Mr. Sanders made good on all of those strengths. He excelled in college towns. He won an astonishing 84 percent of those aged 17 to 29 – even better than Mr. Obama in the 2008 caucus. He won voters making less than $50,000 a year, again outperforming Mr. Obama by a wide margin. He won “very liberal” voters comfortably, 58 to 39 percent.

But these strengths were neatly canceled by Mrs. Clinton’s strengths. She won older voters, more affluent voters, along with “somewhat liberal” and “moderate” Democrats.

This raises a straightforward challenge for Mr. Sanders. He has nearly no chance to do as well among nonwhite voters as Mr. Obama did in 2008. To win, Mr. Sanders will need to secure white voters by at least a modest margin and probably a large one. In the end, Mr. Sanders failed to score a clear win in a state where Mr. Obama easily defeated Mrs. Clinton among white voters.

Mr. Sanders’s strength wasn’t so great as to suggest that he’s positioned to improve upon national polls once the campaign heats up. National polls show him roughly tied with Mrs. Clinton among white voters, and it was the case here as well. It suggests that additional gains for Mr. Sanders in national polls will require him to do better than he did in Iowa, not that the close race in Iowa augurs a close one nationally.

The Times’ entrance polling confirms Cohn’s analysis. The Iowa Democratic caucus electorate was tailor-made for Sanders, and he still managed only a ‘virtual tie.’

On the GOP side, last night confirmed a three-horse’s-ass race as Ted Cruz netted 8 delegates to 7 each for Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. No other WHannabe reached even 10%. Ben Carson, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush were the only other WHannabes to garner delegates, with 4, 1, and 1 respectively.

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Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

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Good day and good nuts