MANCHESTER, N.H. ― Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared victory in the Iowa caucuses Thursday, even as the Democratic Party in the state was still rolling out the final results.
“A margin of 6,000 votes is pretty decisive,” Sanders told reporters in a press conference in New Hampshire, which is set to hold its primary on Tuesday.
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has also been declaring himself victorious in Iowa ― doing so on the night of the caucuses, before any results had come out.
Sanders conceded that he and Buttigieg both had a good showing there, and that ultimately, they will end up with approximately the same number of national delegates toward the nomination.
The Iowa caucuses melted down this year. An app that was supposed to make transmitting results easier was rife with problems, and the backup hotline was overloaded.
The state party also tried to be more transparent by reporting the totals each candidate received in both the first and second rounds of caucusing, as well as the “state delegate equivalent” results ― a complicated formula that helps determine how many national delegates the candidate receives.
Sanders said the media was putting too much emphasis on the state delegate equivalents, arguing that number didn’t ultimately matter because the national delegates and popular vote were more important.
“This difference, no matter who inches ahead in the end, is meaningless, because we are both likely to receive the same number of national delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee,” he said.
Sanders also said he’d like to see changes to the Iowa caucuses for the next election cycle.
“The Iowa caucus is just much much too complicated. ... What will not happen again, if I have anything to say about it, is a caucus this complicated,” he said.
On Thursday, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez called for a recanvass of the votes in Iowa ― essentially an audit of the reporting forms, rather than a full recount ― in light of all the problems there.
“All I can say is what I just said,” Bernie replied when asked about Perez’s tweet. “We won an eight-person election by some 6,000 votes. That is not going to be changed.”
While Sanders and Buttigieg are emerging as the winners out of Iowa, neither of them received the full boost of momentum that they would have had if the results had come out earlier and the process hadn’t had so many problems.
But while they are declaring victory, it’s been clear that former Vice President Joe Biden struggled that night, placing fourth — a disappointing showing for the man who was supposed to be the undisputed front-runner.
Biden started going on the attack against both Buttigieg and Sanders on Wednesday, warning that Sanders’ self-proclaimed belief in democratic socialism will cause problems for “every Democrat in America, up and down the ballot — blue states, red states, purple states, easy districts, competitive ones” who “will have to carry the label Senator Sanders has chosen for himself.”
“Let me tell my good friend Joe that when we’re dealing with someone like Donald Trump who lies all the time, he will pin any label he wants on any candidate,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t really matter.”