Fiasco: The official Iowa results are littered with errors, says NYT analysis; Update: DNC chair calls for recanvass

Turns out Biden won!

Nah, just kidding. Joe 2020 will be effectively dead within a few weeks, it appears. And at this point, the exact vote totals from Iowa don’t matter much. Sanders and Buttigieg will finish a close one-two, in whatever order, followed by Warren in third and Biden a distant fourth. The reason this Upshot analysis matters is that it’s surely the end of Iowa’s reign as the first election on the calendar each presidential cycle, in case there was any remaining doubt that that change was coming.

Bad enough that they’d make a hash of the results on caucus night only to dribble them out later over the course of days. But to screw up the official results once they’ve finally been tallied incinerates whatever faith was left in the process. Presumably Bernie will claim victory anyway on grounds that he pretty clearly won the first alignment and final alignment of actual votes — as best we can tell — regardless of what that might mean in delegates. But New Hampshire now will function as the first reliable barometer of the state of the national race.

As you read stories today about Iowa Dems scapegoating Trump fans for clogging their phone lines on caucus night, bear in mind that some of them couldn’t even follow their own rules on counting votes.

According to a New York Times analysis, more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.

In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts.

Some of these inconsistencies may prove to be innocuous, and the irregularities do not indicate an intentional effort to compromise or rig the result. There is no apparent bias in favor of the leaders Pete Buttigieg or Bernie Sanders, meaning the overall effect on the winner’s margin may be small…

The errors suggest that many Iowa caucus leaders struggled to follow the rules of their party’s caucuses, or to adopt the additional reporting requirements introduced since 2016. They show that the Iowa Democratic Party, despite the long delays, failed to validate all of the results fully before releasing them to the public.

What sort of errors are we talking about? Basic stuff, says the Times, like some precincts improperly applying the rules about the 15 percent threshold for viability. You know how it works by now, or how it’s supposed to work. There’s an initial vote to see which candidates are pulling 15 percent or better, followed by an opportunity for supporters of candidates who fell short of that mark to realign themselves with the viable candidates. Then a second vote is taken, the so-called final alignment. That’s the official result in each precinct, with delegates awarded proportionally based on that outcome. Under the rules, only supporters of nonviable candidates are allowed to realign between the first and second ballot, which means no candidate who cleared 15 percent on the first vote should find themselves with a lower number on the second ballot. But in several precincts that did happen somehow. Nor should the total number of voters at a precinct change between the first and second ballot. But somehow that happened too.

And that’s not all. Some precincts awarded more delegates to the candidates than they were allotted under party rules. Other precincts mysteriously gave fewer delegates to the winner than they did to candidates who finished behind him. It’s possible for the candidate who finished second in total votes statewide to earn more delegates than the winner — that’s the position Pete Buttigieg is in right now, in fact — because rural precincts are weighted a bit more heavily than urban ones. But it shouldn’t be possible at individual precincts. And yet that’s what the numbers at some of them show, the Times says.

So what’s left of this sh*tshow election? And, ominously, what are we to make of the results from caucuses past?

The only reason the Times is able to check the Iowa Democratic Party’s math is because pressure from Berniebros after the 2016 caucuses convinced them to release all of the data on the first and final alignments this time.

In case anyone still cares and/or feels inclined to trust the numbers, news broke last night that Bernie has almost overtaken Buttigieg for the lead in Iowa delegates as the vote-counting winds down. The reason has to do with the “satellite caucuses” that were held on Monday around the state for voters who couldn’t make it out on caucus night for whatever reason. Evidently Team Sanders organized the hell out of those while Team Buttigieg overlooked them. Result: Bernie utterly crushed Pete at the latest one to be counted, narrowing Buttigieg’s lead in “state delegate equivalents” to … four.

Buttigieg led Sanders by two full points in SDEs on Tuesday, when the first partial results were reported. If Sanders overtakes him in the last little bit of counting still to be done, as he’s now favored to do, he’ll be the official winner of the caucuses.

At least until the party starts recounting all the precinct totals and correcting the various errors in the math. Who knows what that’ll do to the final figures.

Anyway, let’s sweep all of this (and the entire state of Iowa) aside and focus on the basics. Bernie and Pete each did very well whereas Biden’s results were a “clusterf**k,” “a sh*tshow,” and a “f**king disaster,” according to, er, Biden’s own aides. We have a new set of data this morning from New Hampshire via the Boston Globe tracker, which had already shown a post-Iowa bounce for Buttigieg this week. He’s still gaining, it turns out. This looks to be a two-man race:

Bernie Sanders continues to lead the field with 25%, but Buttigieg is closing in with a 19% showing, his best yet in our poll.

Joe Biden dropped three points from last night to 12%, and Elizabeth Warren is holding steady at 11%.

Looking deeper into the crosstabs, Buttigieg appears to be siphoning voters away from Biden in a couple of key areas. He’s up by four among women while Biden is down by four, with a similar scenario among registered Democrats, a crucial demo for Biden…

And Biden’s woes are highlighted by a startling six point drop among one of the core elements of his base, voters over age 65.

Biden’s in a lot of trouble. He can continue to mutter “South Carolina” but if he gets wiped here and then again in Nevada the following week no one will have any confidence that he’ll finish the campaign with more delegates than Sanders. Benjy Sarlin’s right that this is something of a perfect storm for Bernie: Three different centrist candidates (Biden, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg) are likely to be competing on Super Tuesday whereas Warren is probably cooked if she finishes far back in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Even if Bernie can’t win a majority of delegates before the convention, he’s well positioned to win a plurality with the centrist vote splintering. Establishment Dems will be under heavy pressure to try to force one or two of those centrists from the race, but they can’t ask Buttigieg to quit given that he’s performing well and they probably can’t ask Bloomberg since they’re depending on him for big money this fall. Guess who they’re going to ask.

This is a good point too:

If you’re an anti-Bernie Democrat, without Bloomberg in the race you’re probably rallying around Biden right now as the de facto only option since America’s not going to elect a 38-year-old ex-mayor president. Bloomberg gives you a reason to keep your powder dry until Super Tuesday. That’s possibly fatal to Joe, who needs signs of support desperately before the “Biden bust” narrative is unstoppable.

Here he is yesterday finally going after Buttigieg. What choice does he have at this point?

Update: What’s an order of magnitude beyond a “fiasco”?