As the count from Iowa’s caucuses continues, I think we can now say that what has happened couldn’t have done much more to maximize chaos in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. That applies to the results so far as well as to how they were released.

We still have only 71% of precincts reported, and don’t know for sure if Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg will be the winner. Buttigieg has a narrow lead in the traditional measure Iowa uses to assess the winner, something called “state delegate equivalents,” while Sanders has a small edge in total votes.

If you had asked me before the caucuses to rank the possible Iowa winners in terms of their chances of being nominated, I probably would have put Sanders and Buttigieg last. The Vermont senator in particular had an excellent chance to win in Iowa, according to the polls and other reporting — far better, for example, than Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar did. Had Klobuchar won, however, she would likely have received a ton of positive publicity for pulling off a big surprise; she was in good shape for putting together an everyone’s-second-choice type of winning coalition.

Sanders, on the other hand, has been a factional candidate. And Buttigieg was only doing a bit better in national polls than Klobuchar, while showing even less success at winning support from party actors. Both former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren would have been even better bets than Klobuchar to capture the nomination, had they won in Iowa, given their better standings in the polls and support from party actors.

So the winners were already less likely to be able to capitalize on the Iowa results and move on to a rapid, convincing victory in the nomination battle. But Sanders’s and Buttigieg’s wins are probably even less valuable, given the combination of the mixed result with the slow release of the initial results and the even slower final count, including the official declarations of who won (whenever that comes).

This calculation continues, through the top five candidates. Take Klobuchar. She’s currently in fifth place in Iowa, with an outside chance of beating Biden. If she had finished fifth with 13% of the vote on caucus night, she might well have dropped out. But that’s not going to happen while she still has a chance of claiming fourth place. By the time that is resolved she’ll probably stick around just in case lighting strikes in New Hampshire.

After all, she’ll have a CNN town hall on Thursday and a Democratic debate on Friday, and she’s not that far out of fourth place, or even second place, in New Hampshire polls. Had she done just a bit better, she could have significantly hurt Biden’s chances without really helping her own long-shot possibility much.

I could describe similar scenarios for the others. In other words, not only does it appear that Iowa failed in its traditional role of knocking out candidates, it almost did the opposite: keeping in the previously weaker contenders, without much of a setback for the stronger ones.

All that said, we’re still a long, long way from a contested convention. It’s likely that only two or three of these five candidates will make it through New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (Feb. 22) and South Carolina (Feb. 29).

Tom Steyer, who failed to register at all in Iowa, has polled well in Nevada and South Carolina, but there’s a very good chance that his support in those states, where he’s been mostly alone in TV advertising, will fade or collapse when the full campaign moves there. The same thing might happen to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is polling at about 10% nationally but may struggle to match the winners of the February primaries in news coverage. He needs to reach 15%, at any rate, to start winning delegates (Bloomberg is the founder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg Opinion).

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