WASHINGTON, February 4, 2020 — Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are stuck in a tight battle for first place in the Iowa caucuses, while a third of the vote remains unknown.
However, the mayor is already acting like he has already won, thanks to his major spin game. 62 percent of the precincts already reporting while some candidates have been expressing frustration about the delayed results, Buttigieg was declaring victory.
Buttigieg has 27 percent of the state delegate count so far, while Sanders has 25 percent. Elizabeth Warren follows with 18 percent, and Joe Biden is currently in fourth with 16 percent. Amy Klobuchar is at just under 13 percent.
Buttigieg successfully taking on established Democrats
Buttigieg, the first openly gay man to run a campaign for president, teared up as he talked about his performance. It “validates for a kid somewhere in a community wondering if he belongs, or she belongs, or they belong, in their own family that if you believe in yourself and your country, there’s a lot backing up that belief,” he said.
Buttigieg will make history if he can keep his lead. Buttigieg will have gone from being a little-known mayor to a voice to be reckoned with that edged out some of the top names in Democratic politics. Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Democratic strategist, said Buttigieg was able to capture the post-caucus moment more than his rivals — though the caucus troubles did not do him any favors.
“If you watched all the speeches last night with the sound down, you would say Mayor Pete won and gave a victory speech and everyone else gave a regular speech,” Link said. “It just looked like a victory speech, the crowd was fired up, he was fired up, he was energetic.”
Link noted that even if Buttigieg drops below Sanders, the former mayor is still on track to win more than 60 counties, including in working-class regions along the Mississippi River and rural districts. Buttigieg and Sanders spent heavily on both digital and television advertising in Iowa, with Buttigieg among the earliest candidates to begin airing ads in the state. The Indiana Democrat hired the same ad maker who helped propel the little known Barack Obama in Iowa in 2008.
Buttigieg’s success continues to grow
Buttigieg’s true rise in the state, though, may be traced back to a breakout performance at the Liberty & Justice dinner, a marquee Democratic Party event. In front of 13,500 Democrats in early November, Buttigieg delivered a soaring speech that was widely viewed as setting him apart from the crowded field at the time.
The former small-city mayor gradually built a following, and crowds soon began to swell across the state. Buttigieg’s campaign notes that preliminary results show he is winning 20 out of 31 counties that swung from supporting Obama twice to backing Donald Trump in 2016. The swing-voter demographic is where both Sanders and Joe Biden have predicted they would show strength.
Speaking to reporters here Tuesday, Iowa Democratic State Party Chair Troy Price would not say when the remaining results would be released.
“A thorough, transparent and independent examination of what occurred yesterday will follow. But let me be clear, my No. 1 priority has been on ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the results,” Price said. “We have been working all night to be in the best position to report results.