A Virtual Draw in Iowa for Clinton, Sanders

A Virtual Draw in Iowa for Clinton, Sanders
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DES MOINES, Iowa—The dramatically too-close-to-call caucus results had both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders claiming some kind of victory here Monday night.

For Clinton, it was “a sigh of relief.” Sanders called it “a virtual tie.”

Late Monday, it appeared Sanders and Clinton would split the state's 44 delegates. At 12:49 a.m. Tuesday, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted, "Based on current numbers, @HillaryClinton will emerge tonight with two more delegates than @BernieSanders. Thank you, Iowa." 

More than an hour later, the campaign released a statement asserting, "After thorough reporting – and analysis – of results, there is no uncertainty and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates."

Martin O’Malley, who managed just 0.6 percent of the support, suspended his campaign as the results trickled in.

“I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message,” Sanders said as the final tally hung in the balance. "That is, given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”

Moments earlier, Clinton claimed to relish “the opportunity to have a real contest of ideas, to think about what the Democratic Party stands for.”

“I am excited to really get into the debate with Senator Sanders about the best way forward,” she said from her campaign party at Drake University.

The dead heat in Iowa foreshadows another protracted fight for the Democratic nomination. With O’Malley leaving the contest, Clinton and Sanders now pivot to a two-person race as primary voters in New Hampshire get ready to head to the polls Feb. 9.

Clinton found a silver lining in the unprecedentedly high turnout in the state, which pundits thought would propel Sanders to a win. But she, of course, would have preferred a clearer victory over her rival, not only as redemption for the notoriously difficult loss she received here eight years ago at the hands of another unlikely upstart, but also because it would have placed her on sturdier footing heading into what is expected to be an uphill climb for her in the Granite State next week.

Flanked by her husband, who lost both Iowa and New Hampshire in 1992, and her daughter, Clinton exited the stage to “Fight Song,” pledging to duke it out with Sanders for the nomination.

“I am a progressive, who gets things done,” she declared.

For Sanders, the cliffhanger results tasted almost as sweet as victory. He declared that the political revolution his supporters helped him launch is just getting under way, and cautioned anyone against underestimating his campaign.

One of those supporters, Dan Svec, turned out to caucus at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, where the room was nearly evenly divided: 68 votes for Sanders and 62 for Clinton. Svec said Sanders' economic message, especially on trade, resonated with him, as did his campaign to get big money out of politics. "This is a movement," Svec said of his support for Sanders. 

The Vermont senator expects to keep Clinton on her toes through New Hampshire. He holds a commanding lead in the polls there, and a win would help propel his campaign further while raising questions about Clinton’s general election viability.

On Wednesday at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, the candidates have agreed to debate at an event broadcast by MSNBC and moderated by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow. On Thursday, the Democratic rivals will participate in a town-hall event in Derry, N.H., broadcast by CNN with Anderson Cooper leading the questioning. After the squeaker caucus results in Iowa, Clinton and Sanders will be advised by their teams to go negative this week to draw sharper contrasts.

The two rival campaigns are each armed with financing that can carry their efforts deep into spring contests, and beyond. Sanders, relying on a base of small donors who can contribute multiple times before hitting the $2,700 federal election law limit, reported raising $73 million in 2015 and more than $20 million in January. He came close to matching Clinton’s $37 million raised in the last three months of 2015. Her campaign reported contributions of $112 million last year, and the former secretary of state's White House bid is buoyed by support from a collection of super PACs. A few such groups, working independently of Sanders’ campaign, are backing the two-term senator.

Iowans were bombarded with television ads from both camps. Sanders tapped into voters’ sentiments and aspirations for change, while Clinton worked to emphasize her experience and pragmatic approach to governance.

In his final ad before the caucuses Monday, Sanders expressed optimism about policies he thinks could level the economic playing field for low- and middle-income families. "I know we can create that America if we listen to our hearts. And that journey begins here in Iowa," he said in his ad.

Clinton’s campaign infomercial, titled “Children,” was shown at her Iowa events this week. It relied on video and photos of Clinton going back decades to demonstrate her advocacy for children. The message is supposed to be a rejoinder to the assertion by detractors that Clinton’s battles for the downtrodden are inauthentic or somehow new.

“I’ve spent my life fighting for children, families, and our country,” Clinton says in a clip pulled from her current stump speech. “And I’m not stopping now.”

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.

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