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Has the Iowa debacle saved Joe Biden’s campaign?

Chances are, if the results from Iowa’s caucuses had been reported properly last night, the entire political world would be talking about Joe Biden’s meltdown.

According to multiple reports and data collected from all the other Democratic campaigns, Biden seems likely to have placed a distant fourth last night, well behind frontrunners Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Some of the campaigns speculated that Biden may have actually placed fifth, behind the surprisingly strong Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

As the national frontrunner, Biden did not necessarily have to win the Iowa caucuses last night. But he did very desperately need a respectable showing. But by all accounts, he did not get such a showing at all. In multiple caucus locations, the alleged party favorite was unable to even reach the viability threshold, leading to embarrassing scenes like this one, which was captured on cell phone video.

And this clip from Jake Tapper, which might well have been the signature moment of the evening, had the night not given away to widespread chaos and anger at the process itself:

If the results had been reported quickly and accurately, it seems likely this morning that the illusion of Biden as a frontrunner would have already evaporated into thin air, and Biden’s seemingly strong candidacy would be seen as a paper tiger that folded when the first votes were actually counted.

Instead — fortunately for Biden — everyone is focused on the debacle itself. Instead of heaping scorn on Biden for his inability to even seriously compete in Iowa, everyone is heaping well-deserved scorn on the Iowa Democratic Party for not only bungling the process of counting the votes, but also for fueling rampant speculations of corruption by not providing even the smallest shred of transparency to the campaigns or the public about what was going on behind the scenes.

By all indications, it will be late in the day on Tuesday before any official results have been released to the public. Reading between the lines, it seems entirely possible that a winner may not be declared until Thursday or later. Worse (or better, from Biden’s perspective), there were widespread reports that the actual vote was conducted improperly in many caucus locations due to new and confusing rules, which means that the IDP may have to take controversial measures to apportion votes from those locations.

At this point, one thing seems certain: Whenever a winner finally is announced in Iowa, a large number of Democratic primary voters will not accept the results as genuine and accurate. Conspiracy theories are already flying about Buttigieg’s ties to a reporting app that appears to be the genesis of much of the problems. No one can possibly have confidence in whatever result is announced by now, and whoever is eventually declared winner will, instead of a nice boost in stature, likely be the subject of recriminations and accusations of corruption and party favoritism.

All of this is bad news for Sanders and Buttigieg — who appear to have been in a close race for a win in Iowa — and good news for Biden, who seems likely to largely avoid a week of embarrassing press about his campaign’s Iowa face plant.

Pete Buttigieg’s camp sure seems confident that Buttigieg actually won Iowa. Based on their own internal numbers, Buttigieg took the stage late last night and made what sounded like an actual victory speech. And given that even Bernie’s camp concedes that Sanders and Buttigieg appear to have been locked in a dead heat, it seems likely that Buttigieg may well have actually won. But instead of getting praise for a surprisingly strong performance, Buttigieg is instead receiving widespread scorn for attempting to declare victory in a contest in which it appears there will be no winners.

Except, of course, for President Donald Trump, who could not have dreamed up a better scenario for the start of the Democratic presidential primaries, and for Joe Biden, who just may live to fight another day in New Hampshire thanks to the Iowa Democratic Party’s incompetence.