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For First Time in Iowa, 3 'Winners' Are Possible

New rules could muddle the picture
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2019 10:35 AM CST
Voters participate in a Democratic Party caucus in Nevada, Iowa, on Feb. 1, 2016.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(Newser) – Anyone expecting February's Iowa caucuses to add a little clarity to the Democratic race might want to adjust those expectations. As the Des Moines Register reports, new rules this year make it possible that three different candidates could emerge from the Feb. 3 caucuses claiming to be the winner. The short version of the explanation: The state Democratic Party will for the first time be disclosing raw vote totals from the caucuses. The longer explanation involves an understanding of the arcane way the state caucuses work. As reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel writes, the traditional "winner" in Iowa has long been decided "by a complicated system of state delegate equivalents, which operates kind of like the Electoral College."

That won't change—one candidate will still be the winner in terms of delegates. But the state party will for the first time disclose raw totals from the first count of votes at gatherings (the "first alignment"), as well as from the second and final one. Of course, one candidate could sweep them all, "but it's also fully possible that a different candidate could 'win' each of the three metrics," writes Pfannenstiel. Each would come with its own bragging points. Meanwhile, an analysis at Fortune makes the case that while Iowa typically doesn't decide who will be president, it plays a strong role in deciding who won't be president. (Joe Biden is denying reports that he would serve only one term.)

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