What a rollercoaster! With huge turnout on both sides of the aisle, a dead heat on the Democratic side, and a surprising third place upset on the GOP side (is that a thing?), we're here to explain what exactly just happened!
The Democrats (Outcome: Basically Unknown, but Hillary Declared Herself the Winner Anyway)
The media gave it short shrift, but this was by far the most exciting race of the night! Unfortunately, it's near impossible to understand the results if you don't know the difference between precincts, state delegates, national delegates, and superdelegates, which nobody does. Never fear, however. We're here to give you the highlights!
* O'Malley suspended his campaign before the final results were in. Curiously, however, he had tallied 8 state delegates by that point, meaning that there were precincts where people actually voted for him. Who were you people? Present yourselves! We're all curious.
* Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ended the night in a dead heat. The Clinton camp made the curious choice to declare victory before the final tally had been made (get out ahead of the headlines?) but the actual count is still essentially a toss-up.
The final state delegate count tally (including the 12 previously missing precinct results) stands at:
* Sanders led voters 17-29 by a 70 POINT MARGIN according to exit polls. He also won the 30-25 demo. Clinton did win the over 45 vote, but by a slimmer margin. Also, that's a shrinking demographic, so there's been plenty of reporting on the fact that Sanders made clear where the future of the party lies. (Hint: it's not with the corporate Democrats)
* The reason the Clinton camp was so confident in their victory was because all 6 of the Iowa superdelegates, the party insiders whose votes at the convention do not depend on election outcome, have all pledged to Clinton. This sounds about right...but it also sounds like Sander's "system is rigged" talking points will be well-illustrated in these results, so they actually play right into his hand.
And that, friends, is why Clinton appears to have won, nobody knows who really "won!" Still, a lot of media is reporting that Sanders came out of this race looking viable and Clinton came out looking vulnerable, which isn't a good look for her. Much of the spin will probably focus on the fact that Sanders isn't polling that well in South Carolina, but remember that viability isn't determined by the media. We'll be interested to see how the demographics start to shift in the upcoming states! On to New Hampshire!
And now, the other shenanigans:
The Republicans (Outcome: Cruz wins, Rubio "wins," Trump beats Rubio and still loses)
As usual, all the action here was in the second and third-place range because...who cares who wins Iowa? (Remember the win Huckabee Days? The Santorum win days? Huck's now out. Santorum is slogging on despite his total irrelevance.)
* Cruz won with 28% of the vote, but he won in the most loser-y possible way because the real story of the night was Rubio's sudden surge. After polling in a distant third place for most of eternity, Rubio nearly surpassed second-place loser Trump at the last minute, finishing the night with 23% of the vote (to Trump's 24%). Look towards the establishment rallying around him and the money starting to flow into his campaign and SuperPAC in a big way!
* Trump lost the spin war by not winning outright. Media is saying that his entire mystique is about his winner-y-ness and that we're now seeing cracks form. This might be true, but considering how many surprises he's pulled off so far, anything it still possible. Also he made weird references to buying a farm in Iowa in his remarks last night. We'd guess they probably don't want him.
* Water won again in Rubio's chronic battle with dry mouth. Can somebody keep this man hydrated please?
* Ben Carson reportedly couldn't stick around in Iowa for the results because...he ran out of clean clothes.
Any questions/observations/random feelings? Leave them in the comments!
[Note: We'll update as new news breaks!]