The Iowa Caucuses were over a month ago and the media attention has now moved to other states and other contests. However, the caucuses themselves were only the first step in a four-step process. Next Saturday is the second step — the county conventions. While waiting for result from the state’s that start today, let’s take a minute to look at what is at the county conventions next week.
In the past, the Republicans did not give any weight to the preference vote taken at the precinct conventions. Every round in caucus states was a chance for activists to get a disproportionate (to the initial preference vote) number of delegates to the next round (and ultimately to the national convention). The new rules bind the delegates for the first round based on the preference vote. However, delegates are not bound after the first round. If the party is hoping for a contested convention that goes to a second round (potentially the only way to stop Donald Trump), the delegate selection process may still be a way to game the nomination. Given doubts about the strength of the Trump field organization, there is a good chance that choosing phony Trump delegates will occur in a lot of places who use a caucus/convention system to choose delegates.
The battle will be a lot more in the open on the Democratic side. On caucus night, the Iowa Democrats reported the results of the precinct meeting in terms of state delegate equivalents. (The value in state delegate equivalents of any delegate to the county convention is the number of county delegates to the state convention divided by the number of precinct delegates to the county convention. This ratio is not the same in every county). Because each delegate to the county convention is a fraction of a state delegate, in most counties, both Clinton and Sanders have a fractional excess delegate. In the end, the normal rounding rules will apply and the fractional delegates will be rounded to whole delegates. Additionally, there are seventy-six delegates to the various county conventions who are either O’Malley delegates or uncommitted delegates (primarily O’Malley delegates) — as well as three delegates from single-delegate precincts that did not report any result. There is not a single county where there are enough O’Malley delegates or uncommitted delegates to meet the viability threshold (fifteen percent). These delegates will have to choose a side.
Barring Sanders delegates or Clinton delegates skipping the county conventions or missing a side, most county conventions are relatively set in stone. In fourteen counties, the results are close enough that what happens next Saturday will determine the allocation of one delegate (or in one case, two delegates). (There is also the issue of Osceola County which has only one delegate to the state convention. While Clinton has the majority of delegates to the county convention, there is always the chance that a Sanders supporter might win the slot since all the delegates to the county convention will have to form one preference group). As things stand today, excluding those fifteen delegates, Clinton leads the state convention 699 to 692. None of the fifteen delegates that are still up for grab will impact the allocation at the congressional district convention or the pledged PLEO delegates. They could, however, impact the at-large delegates at the state convention (switching a Clinton 23-21 lead in pledged delegates to a 22-22 tie).
In alphabetical order, the counties at stake next Saturday are: 1) Black Hawk County — 2 delegates to the county convention are uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; Clinton needs both delegates to get the extra delegate to the state convention; Sanders needs one; 2) Butler County — there is a tie for the last state convention delegate; assuming no missing delegates, this slot will be decided in a coin flip; 3) Crawford County — 8 delegates to the county convention are uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; Clinton needs six for the last delegate; Sanders needs four; however, if one Clinton or Sanders delegates joins the uncommitted/O’Malley delegation, that delegation would become viable and get the last delegate; 4) Decatur — 2 uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; Sanders needs both to force a coin flip for the last delegate; 5) Delaware — 2 uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; Clinton needs both to win the extra delegate; Sanders needs one to win the extra delegate; 6) Henry County — there is a tie for the last state convention delegate; another potential coin flip; 7) Jackson County — 2 uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; Sanders needs both to force a coin flip for the last delegate; 8) Jasper County — 7 uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; Clinton needs three to win the last delegate; Sanders needs five; 9) Keokuk County — 1 uncommitted/O’Malley delegate; Sanders needs that delegate to force a coin-flip for the last delegate; 10) Linn County — 1 uncommitted/O’Malley delegate; Clinton needs that delegate to force a coin-flip; 11) Marion County — 2 uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; Sanders needs both to force a coin-flip for the last delegate; 12) Monroe County — 8 uncommitted/O’Malley delegates; 2 delegates short of being viable for the last delegate; assuming not viable, Clinton needs 5 delegates and Sanders 4 to get the last state delegate; 13) Polk County — 8 uncommitted/O’Malley Delegates (8 short of viability); 2 state convention delegates at stake; Clinton needs one delegate to get the first extra delegate and seven to get both; Sanders needs two delegates to get the first extra delegate and eight to get both; and 14) Scott County — 1 uncommitted; O’Malley delegate; whomever gets that delegate gets the extra state convention delegate.
Looking at the above, in the six counties where the uncommitted/O’Malley delegates could force a coin flip, I would expect some reluctance to do so. If the candidate leading for the last delegate wins in those six counties, that would give Clinton 703 state convention delegates to Sanders’s 694, all but assuring Clinton of the last national convention delegates (unless every other delegate contest goes against Clinton).