The Sanders campaign reports it received 29.7 percent of the vote, closely followed by former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 24.6 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren came in at 21.2 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden in fourth at 12.4 percent. Sanders put those numbers out shortly after Buttigieg finished his own, seemingly triumphant speech in Iowa. The party said it would release official results Tuesday.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign adviser, explained the decision to release the numbers in a statement. “We recognize that this does not replace the full data from the Iowa Democratic Party, but we believe firmly that our supporters worked too hard for too long to have that work delayed,” he said.
The possible win represents a turnaround for a campaign that was left for dead in the fall, as Sanders foundered in the polls and lay in a Las Vegas hospital, recovering from a heart attack, while Warren was riding high. But the lack of official results from the Iowa Democratic Party threatens to overshadow any momentum or decline for any individual candidate.
Heading into the caucus, the Sanders campaign’s strategy hinged on high voter turnout, and in particular, converting nonvoters into voters and expanding the electorate. (At a rally in Queens, New York this fall, Sanders said, “On caucus night, turn on the TV early, and if the moderator tells you there’s a large voter turn out, we win. If they tell you there’s a low voter turnout, we lose. It’s really as simple as that.”) Iowa is the first test for that strategy, and the state was expected to see record turnout. But while no official numbers have yet been reported, party officials in Iowa said that turnout was lower than it was in 2016. Sanders’ internal figures — again, which they said reported nearly 40 percent of precincts — showed 87,396 voters for the first count of voters and 79,162 for the final count.
Buttigieg’s presumed rise in the Iowa caucus — and Biden’s fall — follow weeks of volatility in polling. Last week, as Sanders surged, Buttigieg dropped in a number of polls, falling eight points since December in an Emerson’s Iowa poll, and losing two points in their national poll. He stayed level at seven percent in a Fox poll, but fell behind not only Sanders, Warren, and Biden, but also former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. While each of the candidates gave a speech as caucus results were delayed on Monday night, Buttigieg stood out for touting his own victory — even as 0 percent of precinct results had yet to come in. “By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious,” Buttigieg declared.
Warren’s relatively high showing came after a few weeks of bad press following a public dispute with Sanders, after CNN reported that Sanders had confided with Warren during a private dinner in 2018 that he did not believe that a woman could defeat President Donald Trump. Over the following days, the campaigns exchanged jabs at one another, and the candidates themselves sparred at a Democratic debate, fueling near-constant media coverage, though surrogates from both campaigns later downplayed its significance. Afterward, Warren’s approval ratings in Iowa sank from a high of 28 percent last October to hovering around 15.5 percent going into the caucus.
In Iowa, the Warren campaign touted her core message on economic populist ideas, including her signature wealth tax, as well as policies tailored for the struggles of small farmers. Warren promised an antitrust campaign focused on breaking up the increasing consolidation with agribusiness industry, as well as the right for small farmers to repair their own equipment. Warren’s focus on inequality earned her the Des Moines Register endorsement, which praised her as “a thinker, a policy wonk and a hard worker.”
Early reports poured in on Twitter from individual satellite caucuses, many of which are focused around particular constituencies like union members and Muslim Americans. Sanders appeared to do well among these groups, including at the Muslim Community Organization in Des Moines, where Sanders won 99 percent of caucusgoers, turning out 115 people to one or two people for other candidates. At a Latino caucus site, Sanders won 94 percent, according to one report. At the first satellite caucus, at a union hall in Ottumwa, Sanders won the backing of 14 out of 15 caucus-goers, many of them of Ethiopian origin or descent.