Sanders Declares Victory in Iowa Despite Close Race

(Bloomberg) -- Bernie Sanders declared victory in the Iowa caucuses, despite being essentially tied with former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in state delegate equivalents as the count was still ongoing.

Speaking at a press conference at his campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, the Vermont senator criticized the Iowa Democratic Party’s handling of the delayed caucus results as “unfair.”

“What I want to do today, three days late, is to thank the people of Iowa for the very strong victory they gave us at the caucus,” he said.

With 97% of the results counted, only one-tenth of a percentage point separates the two leaders. Buttigieg has 26.2%, Sanders 26.1%, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was in third place with 18.2% and former Vice President Joe Biden had 15.8%.

Sanders argues that he leads in the popular vote. The official winner will be declared based on the number of state delegate-equivalents awarded. This is the first year Iowa released data on which candidate won the popular vote, a move that came in response to reforms after 2016 when Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nearly tied in the state.

“When 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory,” he said, citing the raw vote totals for 97% of the precincts reporting.

Sanders argued that the final results of the caucus won’t matter much because he and Buttigieg will end up with the same number of delegates to the national convention.

“Who inches ahead in the end is meaningless,” he said. The presidential nominee is the candidate with the most delegates at the Democratic National Convention in July.

Sanders’ speech echoed Buttigieg, who also essentially declared victory on the night of the caucuses when he said that his campaign was “headed to New Hampshire victorious” even though no results had been released at the time.

The caucus results were delayed Monday night due to problems with an app used to report results as well as a hotline used to call in results. A top Iowa Democrat said that supporters of Donald Trump flooded the line with calls, delaying the tally.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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