Election 2020

Buttigieg Wins? Confusion Persists Despite Iowa Caucus Results Reaching 100 Percent

Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 in Anamosa, Iowa (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

On Thursday night, three days after the Iowa caucuses began, the Iowa Democratic Party finally released the full results of the caucuses, and both former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared victory. Despite claiming to release 100 percent of the results, the Democratic Party did not say how many national delegates each candidate had received.

The final slate of results dropped just before Buttigieg appeared at a CNN town hall event at 9 p.m. Eastern. CNN’s Chris Cuomo told the former mayor that he just barely edged out Bernie in the state delegate equivalents, the number that matters for apportioning delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Buttigieg leads by 26.2 percent to Sanders’ 26.1 percent.

“Well, it’s fantastic news to hear that we won,” Buttigieg responded. “First of all I want to say, first of all, Senator Sanders clearly had a great night, too, and I congratulate him and his supporters.”

When asked whether or not he thinks the party should recanvass, Buttigieg said he would leave that decision up to the party. “Whatever they need to do in order to make sure that the information is clear and verified,” he said.

The Buttigieg campaign has raised concerns with the Iowa Democratic Party over how the party allocates state delegate equivalents from satellite caucuses — where Iowans living out of state or overseas could still participate in the caucuses. The campaign reportedly warned that the party had broken the rules, resulting in Sanders earning more delegates.

Sanders also declared victory, noting that his campaign received support from 6,000 more caucus-goers, even though it received slightly fewer delegate equivalents. “Some 6,000 more Iowans came out on caucus night to support our candidacy than the candidacy of anyone else,” Sanders says in a campaign video. “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.”

“Tonight’s release of data by the Iowa Democratic Party confirms Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Iowa caucus,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders campaign senior adviser, said in a statement. “We also feel confident that the discrepancies we’re providing tonight, in addition to those widely identified in the national media, mean that the SDE count will never be known with any kind of certainty. Given the rules changes we fought for that required the release of the popular vote count, SDEs are now an antiquated and meaningless metric for deciding the winner of the Iowa caucus.”

This came hours after Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez demanded the Iowa Democratic Party “immediately begin a recanvass.”

Troy Price, the state party chairman, dismissed Perez’s request by going directly to candidates. “Should any presidential campaign in compliance with the Iowa Delegate Selection Plan request a recanvass, the IDP is prepared,” he said. “This is the official record of the Iowa Democratic caucus, and we are committed to ensuring the results accurately reflect the preference of Iowans. While I fully acknowledge that the reporting circumstances on Monday night were unacceptable, we owe it to the thousands of Iowa Democratic volunteers and caucusgoers to remain focused on collecting and reviewing incoming results.”

The state party did not release any results until nearly 24 hours after the caucuses began, blaming “inconsistencies in the reporting.” This year marked the first time the state party allowed people outside the state to participate in the caucus, and it was the first time the party reported more than one set of results.

The delegate equivalents make the most impact when it comes to the Democratic National Convention, but Sanders’ ability to claim victory in the popular vote may give him some momentum despite his second-place finish where it counts. The delay in the reporting also dampens the natural boost a victory in the Iowa caucuses would usually give a presidential candidate. That said, the results will likely hurt former Vice President Joe Biden — the erstwhile national frontrunner — who may drop to third place in New Hampshire.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.