Why I think Clinton did not win the Iowa caucuses: The spread between Clinton and Sanders remained at 49.8 to 49.6 percent for soooo long, increased a bit, a few times, but always returned to 49.8 to 49.6, never quite getting to 49.7 to 49.7. And Des Moines was at 83% percent for evvvvver. Until REALLY LATE.

Clinton received 49.8 percent support and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) received 49.6 percent support, according to the Iowa Democratic Party’s website.

Talking Points Memo, 1:11 p.m.

Okay.  I do not think Clinton won the caucuses.  I watched the entire count, on my computer, on the New York Times website, which had a map of Iowa, divided into counties.  When you moved your cursor over one county, up popped a window showing the current tally and the percentage tallied for that county.  I did this, obsessively, until about 97% of the total statewide results were tallied.  Then I went to bed.

At that point, it was 49.9 to 49.6, and had been for almost as long as it earlier had been steady at 49.8 to 49.6.  Mostly.  The spread had increased to 49.9 to 49.5, but then narrowed back to 49.9 to 49.6.  That’s what it was when both Clinton and Sanders made their speeches and Clinton said she was breathing a big sigh of relieve and thanked Iowa for her victory.  It remained there until about 1 p.m.

I don’t remember what time it was that the tally first showed 49.8 to 49.6, but I think it was about two hours into the counting. It remained at that spread for a long time, which surprised me.  Then it bounced around slightly, increasing the spread, then returning to 49.8 to 49.6, but never going to 49.7 to 49.7.  Never.

Then suddenly the spread increased to 8/10 of a point.  I figured that a large group of precincts from Des Moines had just reported.  Which would have made sense, because there had been no movement at all in the percentage of votes tallied in Polk County for what seemed like eons.  But, no, Polk County’s tally hadn’t budged.  The spread started increasing slightly.  Then it dropped back to 49.8 to 49.6.  But not to 49.7 to 49.7.  Then back up to 49.9 to 49.6.  Where it remained until the final tally was announced about midday.  The final spread: 49.8 to 49.6.

I’m not the only one who questions the result.  The Sanders campaign does, too.  They base their suspicions on rumors that in some precincts delegates were assigned based on a coin toss, and (like me) on the interesting timing of tally reporting from certain precincts in certain counties.  Or (in my case) at least in one county: Polk.

Clinton, for her part, was her usual graceful and unstilted self about the whole thing.  “I am so thrilled that I’m coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa,” she told a crowd of about 800 at Nashua Community College this afternoon. “I’ve won and I’ve lost there. It’s a lot better to win.”  Because of course it’s perfectly natural to say to a crowd of mostly community college students, “I am so thrilled that I’m coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa.”  Chatty Cathy couldn’t have said it better.

And according to CNN’s website:

After an anxious night for both sides, the state Democratic Party declared Clinton the winner just before 1 p.m. Tuesday — and she immediately seized on her moment of triumph.

“I am so thrilled,” Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview minutes later. “My luck was not that good last time around, and it was wonderful to win the caucus, to have that experience.”

She’s convinced me. It’s a thrilling experience to have watched that percentage spread hit 49.8 to 49.6, again and again, and remain at that spread for relatively long periods of time, but never, ever hit that elusive even split of 49.7, even for a moment.

I know how breathtaking that is, because I watched it happen, too.

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