Iowa Caucus Analysis: How Microsoft Dropped The Ball, And Who Really Won The Night

Last night’s Iowa caucuses delivered some unexpected results on both sides of the race. On the surface, the takeaway is clear: Cruz won for the Republican side, and Hillary Clinton (narrowly) edged out competitor Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. But there’s a little more to the story than just the headlines. Who really won last night? Short answer, American voters did. This primary season is slated to be one of the most competitive in recent memory, for both parties. But the only real loser of the night was Microsoft.

Microsoft developed an app, with cooperation from both parties, to tabulate and report results from each district in Iowa. The app itself was designed to be simple, effective, and straightforward. Three terms rarely applied to the caucus process, which can be — at best — a confusing and outdated process. Not unlike a political square-dance. Partway through the night however, the Microsoft app crashed for some users, causing polls from important districts throughout Iowa to come in late, or not at all.

In an emailed statement to USA Today, Microsoft claims the app worked without issue throughout the night, reporting that only the websites where results were displayed went down — and only momentarily at that. But users accounts from Twitter contradict those claims, some on the Republican right even expressed skepticism about the accuracy of the Microsoft app. It’s worth noting that Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and former CEO, is a major supporter of the Clinton Foundation, a fact which worried some Republican commentators.

Glitches aside, the results of the caucuses are out, but what they really mean for the Presidential election at large is still a matter of debate. The Iowa caucuses themselves only grant a miniscule number of delegates for each candidate, to put it in perspective, the number of delegates a Democratic candidate needs in order to win the nomination of their party is 2,382, on the Republican side it’s 1,237. The Iowa Caucuses award only 74 total — 44 to the Democrats, and 30 to the Republicans.

Delegates are supporters who will vote for whichever candidate “won” them in each primary race (each of the 50 states has a primary race, and delegates to award), their votes will be tallied at the Democratic and Republican national conventions near the end of the Primary season, determining the presidential candidate for either side.

Bernie Sanders Campaigns in New Hampshire Prior to Upcoming Primary
So the real results last night, the hard numbers are as follows, according to Google and the Washington Post: Cruz won 8, Rubio and Trump each won 7. Hillary Clinton won 22 to Bernie Sanders’ 21. In other words, the big news headlines of the day, while factual, are a little misleading. Iowa’s overall impact on the election at large is a drop in the bucket as far as delegates are concerned.

So, why do pundits care so much about the Iowa caucuses? Two reasons, Iowa goes first, so it’s the most visible, and secondly: momentum. The caucuses last night delivered only a handful of delegates to each candidate — even Ben Carson got a couple — but they proved a couple important facts for each campaign.

Hillary Clinton was crowned the winner on the Democratic side, and that’s certainly true, but her campaign isn’t resting on its laurels. According to the Wall Street Journal, the campaign is preparing for a long, hard-fought battle against Senator Bernie Sanders, whose victory last night was perhaps more important than Clinton’s. It proved that he’s a contender, and that his campaign can outperform their polls — two facts that both campaigns are taking seriously. Despite the victory speeches, the campaigns are preparing for the long, hard fought Primary season ahead of them.

On the Republican side, USA Today is reporting that Marco Rubio may have been the breakout star of last night’s caucuses. Why is that, if Ted Cruz won? Because of poll numbers. Polls predicted that Rubio would do poorly, and the Rubio campaign outperformed those polls, while Trump’s campaign underperformed their poll numbers. With candidates on both sides scoring points above and below their poll numbers, it looks like the U.S. might just have the most contested primary season that either party has seen in decades.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]