The Iowa caucuses: Who’s winning? [UPDATED (continuously)]

Hillary Clinton is slightly ahead in the Democratic caucuses. She’s up 51.5 percent to 48 percent with 36 percent of the precincts reporting. Earlier in the evening, her margin was bigger.

On the Republican side, Cruz and Trump are just about even in the raw vote, with Rubio well back in third place. However, David Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight thinks that the early returns “are most likely tiny, more rural caucus sites that are easier to count fast.” He speculates that the numbers for Trump and Rubio will improve as big suburban precincts start reporting votes.

We’ll soon find out.

UPDATE: Rubio’s share is increasing, but Trump’s is declining. Last I saw, it was 29 percent for Cruz, 25.5 percent for Trump, and 20.9 percent for Rubio with 45 percent reporting.

I’d be delighted if this were the final outcome. It would help both Cruz and Rubio at Trump’s expense.

ON THE DEM SIDE: Clinton’s lead is small, but David Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight wonders where Sanders can make up the deficit. He says:

There simply aren’t a lot of “Bernie blowout” zones. In very liberal, academic Iowa City (Johnson County), Bernie is leading by 15 percentage points, but that’s not as huge a lead as he might have expected there. And his leads elsewhere aren’t nearly as large. Plus, there’s still a good chunk of Clinton-friendly Polk (Des Moines) still out.

But now, Fox News is quoting a “Democratic official” who says that a significant part of the late vote will come from precincts with lots of new voters. This scenario would likely favor Sanders.

MORE ON THE GOP SIDE: Cruz is maintaining his lead over Trump and now around 75 percent of the precincts apparently are in. Also, Rubio has pulled within 3 points of Trump.

It looks like this might well be a great night for Cruz and a very one good for Rubio.

DEBATES PROBABLY MATTER (even if you’re Donald Trump): Entrance polls indicate that Trump did poorly among late deciders. Maybe he should have participated in the last debate.

Oh well, at least Trump has an excuse handy if he loses.

Rubio was seen by many as doing very well in the last debate. He is the leader among the considerable portion of GOP caucus-attenders who decided late.

IT’S A RACE FOR SECOND PLACE: Ted Cruz has appears to be the winner of the GOP caucuses. The remaining suspense is over who will finish second. Rubio is now running only about 1 percentage point behind Trump.

To be sure, there isn’t a lot of vote uncounted. But Karl Rove says that most of what hasn’t reported is from the eastern part of the state and the Des Moines area. Broadly speaking, Rubio has done well in these areas. Trump, not so much. His strength has been in the west, e.g., Council Bluffs and environs (Dave Begley says that Trump was killing it at the caucus Dave attended).

DROP OUTS: Martin O’Malley and Mike Huckabee have quit. It’s stunning that O’Malley stayed in this long. He should have followed Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee out the door months ago.

I can sort of see why Huckabee stayed in. Having won Iowa in 2008 against the odds, there clearly was a part of him (probably small) that thought he could recreate the magic — not by winning but by finishing in third or fourth place, and thus staying alive.

Huckabee is an enormously talented politician, but one has to believe that this is the end of the line. As for O’Malley, the ex-governor of my state, maybe he’ll be named ambassador to someplace if a Democrat wins. Hopefully, to no place important.

TRUMP CONCEDES: Trump’s concession was memorable for being brief and low energy (by his standards). But low energy concessions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Just ask Howard Dean.

It does look like he’ll hold on for second place.

DELEGATE COUNT: At FiveThirtyEight, they are saying that if current results hold up, Cruz will win 8 delegates, Trump and Rubio 7 delegates each. And it takes a helluva lot more than 538 to get the nomination.

Just to put things in perspective.

THE DEMS, UPDATED: Hillary Clinton is probably going to win. She holds a very slight lead and supposedly most of the vote yet to be counted is from Polk County (the Des Moines area) where she’s strong.

A Sanders win would have made my night, but it was a rather good one anyway.

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