Multiple candidates could win the Democratic caucuses

Multiple candidates could win the Democratic caucuses


DES MOINES — Presidential candidates have spent millions of dollars and months of their lives chasing a win in Iowa’s caucuses, but new rules adopted this year open the possibility — some insiders call it a probability — that multiple candidates could “win.”

Democratic insiders and campaign staffers have long acknowledged the chaos and confusion that could emerge, fretting over what it could mean for this year’s caucus as well as future ones. 

For decades, the winner of Iowa’s caucuses has been decided by a complicated system of state delegate equivalents, which operates kind of like the Electoral College. Unlike in the November presidential vote, though, Iowa’s tally of popular support was never released.

But on Monday night, the Iowa Democratic Party will publish two raw vote totals and the delegate numbers from caucus night. 

So one candidate could win one or both of the delegate counts but lose the popular vote. That would open a new layer of complexity as media report the results, campaigns spin them and voters in later states try to make sense of them — all in a year when the stakes have never been higher for Iowa to show it deserves to remain the first-in-the-nation presidential voting state.

MORE: Why is Iowa first? A brief history of the state’s caucuses

Sean Bagniewski, chairman of the Polk County Democrats, said the procedure changes were part of negotiations and revisions in reaction to critiques of the 2016 Democratic caucuses. They’re designed to increase transparency and improve the process. 


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