Iowa Caucus Results – Do The Math

First lets get some perspective. Iowa is a proportional split state, not a winner-take-all state. What percent of the total national party delegates come from Iowa? For the Republicans it is 30 delegates out of 2,380 or 1.26%. For Democrats it is 52 delegates out of 4,047 or 1.28%. The lack of perspective is that the candidates and media have spent at least seven months concentrating on one of the smallest states, as if it was the most important part of the election. They also have destroyed the old equal time doctrine by concentrating on the one TV star candidate, Donald Trump, with their coverage. This was, of course, to boost their ratings. They also made sure to just lob softballs, since Trump at the start made clear he would skip any media that was “unfair” to him. While the public was afraid that the Citizens United ruling would give all races to the richest backers, Trump proved that star power and hyperbole was the trump card, and Bernie Sanders has found a public backlash to the privately funded candidates. It is still a long race to see what else develops.

How does a mathematician look at the Republican results of 28% for Cruz, 25% for Trump, and 24% for Rubio? Since this was only one percent of the National delegates, not 100%, it didn’t mathematically matter who was the winner. It looks like all three got about a quarter of the delegates, plus or minus a few percent. The rest of the field also got about a quarter. While all three claimed a relative triumph, to a mathematician it looked like nobody was a standout. To a political observer, it looked like nobody had the support of more than 28%, which means that 72% of the voters did not prefer that leading candidate.

How does a mathematician look at the Democratic results of very close to an equal and 50% split? Mathematicians know that this is not 100,000 coin flips which can come out this close, although the leading Democratic candidates are very close in policies that they support. The caucus is not a popular vote, but one by districts, where very few state delegates are in a district. If there is a close popular vote in a district, they have to make an equal split of an even number of delegates, so it comes out 50-50, rather than say the real 45-55. The system is thus mathematically designed to tie up an overall close voting outcome. Once again, the emphasis on finding the “winner” is made meaningless.

The networks’ trying hard to find a “winner” where the result is very close, and essentially a tie, just reinforces their outlook that the Iowa caucuses were supposed to be all important.