On February 9, 2016

Sanders and Clinton tie in Iowa

Cruz beats Trump by four points

By Jasper Craven, VTDigger.org

DES MOINES — In a Democratic presidential race often defined as a contest between the head of Hillary Clinton and the heart of Bernie Sanders, Iowans were virtually split Monday on which political organ they believe is more important.

Razor-thin margins emerged from the caucuses held across the Hawkeye State, which means Clinton and Sanders will walk away with a similar number of delegates. At the end of the night, Sanders had the air of a winner, a scrappy underdog capable of shaking up — and perhaps overtaking — the political establishment.

The close results — coupled with strong and consistent fundraising — were a clear win for the 74-year-old Sanders. They showed he has an effective organization, a message that resonates, and a candidacy with staying power. Unlike former Gov. Howard Dean, whose run for the presidency 12 years ago died in the cornfields of Iowa, Sanders left the state on a roll, headed to the New Hampshire, where he leads in the polls.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was unable to solicit enough support in Iowa to be a viable contender. Monday night he announced that he was suspending his campaign for the presidency.

On the Republican side, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas dealt a humbling loss to Donald J. Trump. His sizable victory has lead many political commentators to question the depth of support for Trump’s unconventional candidacy. Many say that Cruz was helped by a surge of support from evangelical Christians.

Trump was slightly more subdued in a speech late Monday night in Iowa, but still confident he’d ultimately win the nomination. “We will go on to get the Republican nomination, and we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw out there,” he said.

Cruz received nearly 28 percent of the vote, Trump 24 percent, Rubio 23 percent and Carson a distant 9 percent. Senator Marco Rubio’s strong third place finish might lead more conventional Republican voters to consolidate their support for him, uneasy about Cruz and Trump as the two top finishers.

Sanders path to “victory”

Monday night, Feb. 1, after months of campaigning, Sanders walked on the stage of a Des Moines hotel with a swagger, shot his fist in the air and beamed a huge smile. It’s been 35 years since he first won the Burlington mayor’s race by 10 votes. Sanders stood before the roaring crowd of hundreds of supporters, dead even with the world-famous former secretary of state and former first lady, and issued his signature challenge.

“Are you guys ready for a radical idea?” Sanders asked, the crowd clapping and cheering. “So is America!”

In a 15-minute speech he told his core supporters, gathered at a Holiday Inn Hotel by the Des Moines airport, that together they had made history.

“What Iowa has done tonight is a political revolution,” he yelled. “I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment,” Sanders told the crowd. “That is, given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”

Sanders pointed to his underdog status when he first started campaigning in Iowa, saying the campaign had “no money, we had no name recognition and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the country.”

While a Des Moines Register poll right before the caucuses put Clinton a hair ahead of Sanders in the Hawkeye State, 45 to 42 percent, he lagged in polls for much of the campaign season. As recently as October, some surveys had the senator trailing 38 points behind the former secretary of state.

The Holiday Inn crowd was boisterous and viscerally angered by the Clinton message. When an MSNBC live feed broadcast her post-caucus remarks, a majority of people in the crowd booed, most vocally when she proclaimed, “I am a progressive who gets things done.”

While Clinton said that the results had her “breathing a big sigh of relief,” she acknowledged a protracted fight over the nomination was likely.

“I am excited about really getting into the debate with Senator Sanders about the best way forward to fight for us and America,” she said

While tallies were incomplete early Tuesday morning, Feb. 2, initial results for Sanders’ were buoyed by large turnout. In fact, a number of precinct locations ran out of official caucus registration cards early, and had to make photocopies. A number of caucus chairs reported overflow crowds and record turnouts in a number of counties.

Sanders’ senior strategist Tad Devine projected confidence after Sanders’ speech, portraying the virtual tie as a Sanders victory.

“We came in and we took on the entire political establishment, and we fought ‘em to a draw,” he said to a media scrum as Neil Young blasted over the loudspeakers. “It’s a huge step forward for us, we are very, very pleased with what happened.”

Devine said the promising Iowa results would likely boost Sanders in future primary states where he now lags, including South Carolina and Nevada. “I have no doubt we have momentum coming out of Iowa tonight,” Devine said.

Going into New Hampshire, Sanders has a sizable lead. A Real Clear Politics average of Granite State polls puts Sanders ahead of Clinton by 18 points.

“New Hampshire votes next, where we have a slight lead in the polls,” Sanders said in a fundraising email that arrived in inboxes moments after he left the Holiday Inn stage. “If we win there, we’ll have all the momentum.”

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