Nick Coltrain, The Des Moines Register
Published 9:22 p.m. ET Feb. 27, 2020 | Updated 10:55 a.m. ET Feb. 28, 2020
The Iowa caucus is sure to be competitive this year. But what makes caucuses different from primaries?
The recount results of 23 Iowa caucus precincts, requested by Buttigieg and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, all but confirms his victory in the first-in-the-nation contest as his campaign readies for Saturday’s fourth-in-the-nation South Carolina primary.
The Iowa Democratic Party’s state central committee is expected to certify the results Saturday.
The recount results may bring to an end the weeks-long uncertainty over the Iowa caucus results, which were plagued with reporting problems, delayed, recanvassed and now recounted. While the Iowa Democratic Party recalculated the Feb. 3 caucus night results, the Democratic presidential candidates moved on to other states.
The Associated Press has not called a winner of the Iowa contest.
The two-day-long recount extended the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s tiny state delegate equivalent, or SDE, lead. Before the recount, Buttigieg had a less than 0.1 edge in state delegate equivalents. After it, he has 0.933 more SDEs than Sanders.
“Yet again, these results confirm Pete won the Iowa caucuses,” campaign spokesperson Ben Halle wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register. “Pete was the only candidate that was able to form a broad-based coalition across the state and across ideological differences.”
The Iowa Democratic Party projected Buttigieg will maintain a 14-12 lead over Sanders in the national delegates from Iowa, a projection based on state delegate equivalents awarded at the caucus precinct sites.
Despite trailing in SDEs, Sanders claimed victory in Iowa shortly after the caucuses and while campaigning in New Hampshire, based on total supporters at caucus sites on first and second alignment. He likens the metric to a popular vote victory. Because of an electoral college-like apportionment, supporter turnout doesn’t necessarily mean a proportional award in SDEs.
SDEs are the traditional measure of success in the Iowa caucus. The state delegate tally is used to allocate delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Those national delegates will formally select the party’s nominee this summer.
According to state party rules, the state central committee, which acts as a governing board of the Iowa Democratic Party, must certify the caucus results no later than Saturday.
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The party’s final results come as presidential candidates prepare for the fourth and final contest before “Super Tuesday,” next week’s grouping of primary elections in which about a third of the total national delegates are at stake.
Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 515-284-8361.
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