The winner of the Iowa caucuses is set to become more subjective through new counting procedures, offering a lifeline to candidates who would ordinarily be forced to withdraw from the first Democratic contest after a mediocre showing.
The Iowa Democratic Party will, for the first time, report the raw vote counts each candidate receives during the first and final rounds of voting in the Feb. 3 first-in-the-nation caucuses. That’s in addition to the state delegate equivalent, which determines how many of Iowa’s 41 pledged national delegates are awarded to a candidate, and the national delegate totals. The person with the most state delegate equivalents wins the Iowa caucuses because they end up with the most national delegates.
In the Democratic primary system, candidates must meet a 15% vote threshold to earn pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention, who decide the Democratic presidential nominee. For the Iowa caucuses, that means candidates who do not receive 15% support on the first round of voter preferences are eliminated, and voting moves to another round, where those who supported candidates with less than 15% move to support one of the other candidates.
The additional counting method gives candidates close to or not quite at the delegate threshold, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, who are at 16% and 7%, respectively, in the RealClearPolitics average of Iowa polls, fuel to argue that they have momentum to continue in primary contests in New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and beyond even if they do not meet the 15% delegate allocation threshold.