What Happened at the Iowa Caucus?

Presidential primary season began this week with the Iowa caucus. 170,000 people across the state of Iowa went to gyms and auditoriums in their precinct on Monday to decide which candidate would not only win Iowa’s delegates, but the precious news coverage that comes with it.


Iowa, Nevada, Wyoming, and North Dakota are the only states that hold caucuses. As opposed to primaries, where voters cast a secret ballot, voters publicly gather to declare support for a candidate. They convene in large gymnasiums or auditoriums and sit on the side of their candidate. Precinct captains give speeches vying for why their candidate ought to be the Democratic nominee (and, of course, President). If someone's candidate doesn't reach viability (15% of precinct attendees), they can switch their vote to someone else. Popular votes are then converted into delegates, which help candidates receive the party nomination (1,990 pledges delegates are needed to secure that title).




The Iowa caucus is crucial in the larger picture of the election season because it shows how effective each candidate’s campaign has been thus far, and can therefore make or break a presidential bid depending on the result. For example, 7 of the past 9 contested Democratic races saw the winner of the Iowa caucus go on to be the Democratic nominee---so it’s a pretty big deal. In spite of its importance, however, the full results have still not been released by the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) due to a malfunction in the system they were using to record data. This delay will undoubtedly affect how much of a media bump the winner will receive, due in part by the way the press has already covered the results, and how both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have claimed victory. The race was so close that the Associated Press was unable to declare a winner.


As of writing this, 99% of precincts have been reported on, showing the following results:


Despite the controversy surrounding the delay in results and the too-close-to-call tie, the Iowa caucus will certainly impact the rest of the election season. Joe Biden, a previous front runner, ended up in fourth place, while Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Indiana, managed to secure the most delegates at 13. Candidates are now currently in New Hampshire, where their primary vote will take place this Tuesday, February 11th.