The Iowa Democratic Party released the majority of the results from the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday, showing a tight race between Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. No winner has yet been announced, but the state party provided results from 62% of precincts from all 99 counties.
The results showed Buttigieg with a slight lead in the state delegate equivalent share. Buttigieg won 26.9% of the delegate share, while Sanders won 25.1%. Elizabeth Warren came in third with 18.3%, and Joe Biden ranked fourth with 15.6%. Senator Amy Klobuchar has 12.5% and Andrew Yang has 1%.
But results also showed Sanders with a very narrow lead when it comes to caucus goers' final choice. Sanders had 26% of the popular vote count, with Buttigieg at 25%, Warren at 21%, Biden at 13% and Klobuchar at 12%. The announcement comes after an embarrassing stumble Monday night when technical problems forced the party to delay the announcement of the results.
Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads with about 27% of State Delegate Equivalents, after the Iowa Democratic Party released most caucus results just now.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is second, just behind, with about 25% of delegate equivalents.
Sanders has slightly more raw votes than Buttigieg, 32,673 to 31,353, but remember: The state delegate equivalent count is what’s used to determine the winner. (The full results can be found in the graphic atop this page.)
About 20 hours after the conclusion of the caucuses, the party released the first 62% of results, across all of the state’s 99 counties. It followed a few hours later with more results, for a total of 71%.
It’s not clear when the party will release the rest of the count.
In a news conference Tuesday, the state’s party chair, Troy Price, apologized for the problems that led his organization to delay releasing the results.
He again cited a “coding issue” on the back end of the results reporting system but maintained that the raw data was accurate and secure — and that there was a paper trail of the results as well.
Joe Biden needs to maintain a strong presence. There’s a good chance Biden loses both Iowa and New Hampshire to Sanders. But don’t count Biden out just yet: The former Vice President continues to dominate in the national polls, despite his modest events and mediocre debate performances.
This could be because Biden’s familiarity and his straightforward platform have made him an easy choice, especially among older voters. Sanders, on the other hand, tends to do better among younger voters. Typically, older voters are more reliable, which is good news for Biden.
Biden also needs to solidify his position as the leading centrist candidate. Buttigieg has been vying for this spot, as well, and if Biden holds onto one of the top two spots in Iowa, he could force Buttigieg out.
Pete Buttigieg needs to beat Biden. Buttigieg and Biden are trying to sell the same message to the same voters: Only moderation will beat Trump in November.
But Buttigieg has also advertised himself as a bringer of change — someone who is young and willing to pursue progress, but at a slower pace than some of the other leftist candidates.
Buttigieg must supplant Biden as the top centrist in the race. If he finishes far behind Biden, it’s unlikely that Buttigieg will have the political momentum necessary to continue after New Hampshire. An Iowa surge isn’t that unlikely, either. Right now, Buttigieg is about four points behind Biden. That’s still a gap, but one that could easily shrink if, for instance, Klobuchar’s supporters realign with Buttigieg’s.
Elizabeth Warren needs to stay in the top three. After surging in the polls late last year, Warren’s campaign has stagnated. She’s still in third place nationally, but Sanders’s recent surge spells bad news for Warren.
The divide between Warren and Sanders is similar to the divide between Buttigieg and Biden. Both Warren and Sanders are fighting for the progressive vote, and right now, Sanders is winning. But Warren is still competitive, especially in New Hampshire. If she can hold onto third place, there’s a good chance she could come back on Feb. 11.
The problem is that Warren’s attempt to bridge the establishment/progressive divide in the Democratic Party has created a base that is not necessarily loyal to her. A recent Emerson College poll found that every single Warren supporter surveyed agreed to realign with a different candidate if Warren does not qualify. Compare that to Sanders’s supporters, 16% of which vowed not to support anyone but Sanders, even if he loses at their caucus site (something that isn't likely to happen in too many places, mind you). This means that if Sanders performs better than Warren in Iowa, her supporters are more likely to jump ship and join Sanders’s campaign.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty heading into the Iowa caucuses. A good chunk of voters are uncommitted and the race is close enough that just about anything could happen. My colleagues Tim Carney and Phil Klein are on the ground in Iowa cutting through a lot of that uncertainty: Follow their reporting here and here. And buckle up -- we're just getting started.
1. Buttigieg and Sanders did not get to bask in the moment.
The impact of the Iowa mess is clearly biggest on Buttigieg. Look at it this way — when this campaign began, people couldn't pronounce his name; he was far down in the polls; and he's gay. Yet Buttigieg finished in a virtual tie with Sanders, who is as well-known a politician as anyone in the country.
Of the two, Buttigieg most needed an Iowa good-news bounce. That was denied him by the results fiasco that sucked up all the oxygen in the political room. Sanders, too, lost the opportunity for days of good press and headlines.
What that means for either candidate going into a state that can reinforce or reset a previous electoral result is unclear. For what it's worth, a Monmouth University Poll out Thursday showed Sanders leading in New Hampshire, followed by Buttigieg. Biden is on the decline. (More on that below.)
2. Warren needs a win.
There was a point not long ago when Warren looked like she might have the nomination sealed up. And then "Medicare for All" tripped her up. Her lack of a plan didn't seem bold enough for the Sanders left, and her theme of "fighting" Republicans made some moderates nervous she couldn't win in a general election.
Warren really needs a win in New Hampshire, and that means either actually winning the primary or at least finishing ahead of Sanders. They're competing in the progressive lane, and if she again finishes behind Sanders, it's tough to see how Warren recovers.
3. Biden's finish was, indeed, a "gut punch."
Entrance polls showed 56% of the caucusgoers identified as moderates. And Biden was at or near the top in Iowa polls coming in. But instead of the lion's share of the moderate vote going to Biden, it wound up being split between Buttigieg, Biden and Klobuchar, who finished only a few points behind the former vice president. What's more, Klobuchar outpaced her polling and was definitely on the upswing in the last weekend. She had big crowds and was on the tips of the tongues of lots of moderate voters in Iowa.
Biden has no one to blame but himself for the finish. Even people at Biden events, who thought they might end up with him, thought he seemed unsteady and that his message was muddled — and many went elsewhere.
Recognizing the threat Buttigieg and Sanders are to his nomination, Biden started going after their vulnerabilities head-on Thursday in New Hampshire. Biden called Buttigieg a "risk" and questioned his experience, stressing he's only been mayor of a city with a small population. And he said President Trump will use Sanders' identifying as a democratic socialist to go after every Democrat up and down the ballot as radical leftists.
Biden needs a stronger finish in New Hampshire to retain his strong support among black voters in South Carolina, which holds its contest Feb. 29. He can't afford to see his support with African Americans eroded and hope to be a strong nominee going into the convention. South Carolina is a must-win state for Biden, and he has to win it big.