Sanders looks to snatch Iowa delegates away from Clinton

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Bernie SandersBernie SandersClinton, Sanders to campaign together in New Hampshire Sanders discourages third-party votes: 'Not the time for a protest vote' Trump: Sanders supporters 'like Trump on trade, a lot' MORE’s campaign will leave at least one paid staffer in Iowa to coordinate with the campaign’s thousands of volunteers in the hopes of wresting delegates away from Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonPost piles on: ‘Beyond debate’ Trump is unfit for office Clinton, Netanyahu have ‘in-depth’ conversation about US-Israeli ties NYT lays out argument against Trump for president MORE.

Tad Devine, a top Sanders campaign aide, told The Hill that although Sanders lost the battle of the Iowa caucuses by a razor-thin margin, the war between the two Democratic presidential candidates has just begun.

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“While we did fall a few state delegate equivalencies short and lost a few coin tosses along the way, for us the process in Iowa just began yesterday,” Devine said, referencing the fact that ties in a handful of precincts left the results up to a literal coin flip.

“Our focus in Iowa is really not about what happened yesterday but what is going to happen during the county convention and the state convention. We want to keep building our delegate totals tier-to-tier in the caucus process.”

“Those were precinct caucuses — they are going to have county conventions, a state convention in Iowa, and we intend to work every tier of the caucus process.”

Devine noted that the campaign will move most of its paid staffers to the next states to vote but will keep a presence in Iowa for the purpose of picking off Clinton delegates.  

“We will leave one person at least,” he said.

“But remember, we have 15,000 volunteers in Iowa who worked on the campaign. Those are going to be the people who work with us on the caucus level to organize things.”

The Clinton campaign did not immediately comment on its strategy to keep delegates secure or to pick off other delegates.

Clinton squeaked out a victory on Monday night, winning 700.59 state delegate equivalents to Sanders’s 696.82, according to the state party. Those numbers represent delegates that the candidates will be able to send to the state conventions on their behalf to eventually designate 44 delegates representing the state at the Democratic National Convention.

But while those delegates have pledged to support a specific candidate, they are not bound by rule to do so, said University of Georgia political science professor Joshua Putnam.

The top-line totals only translate into the number of loyal delegates each candidate can pick to represent them at the state convention, delegates who may ultimately change their minds. Plus, the almost eight delegates secured by Martin O’Malley, who dropped out of the race Monday night, will be up for grabs.

That’s where the jockeying comes in.

Surrogates on the ground can work the delegates and convince them to jump to a rival campaign. It has happened in the past, but Putnam said that it’s unlikely to result in a major reallocation.

With the candidates separated by just a few delegates, it could be possible for Sanders to end up with a slight advantage.

“The battle for delegates will go on and particularly if the race is competitive,” Mike Cuzzi, Barack ObamaBarack ObamaTrump's new debate challenge: Silence WATCH LIVE: Obama speaks at African American Museum opening Obama talks racial tension at African-American museum opening MORE’s deputy New Hampshire director from 2008, told The Hill

“If Bernie starts to go deep into these contests with Clinton and starts to create a real existential threat to her campaign, that puts those delegates even more into play.”

Updated at 8:15 p.m.