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DES MOINES — Bernie Sanders’ campaign declared victory. So did Pete Buttigieg’s. Elizabeth Warren said things were “too close to call” between her, Sanders, and Buttigieg. And Amy Klobuchar’s campaign said she was running even with Joe Biden.
Biden’s campaign attacked the screwed-up process, seeking to cast doubt on the final results.
Iowa’s state Democratic party may have completely messed up on releasing election results, and we won’t know until those numbers actually drop who won and who lost. But it’s pretty clear from the way the campaigns are behaving that everyone thinks Biden had a bad night.
In the absence of hard results from the party, the campaigns that felt the best about the results put out their own projections.
“We don't know all the results, but we know by the time it's all said and done, Iowa, you have shocked the nation because by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious,” Buttigieg declared in a quasi-victory speech late Monday night.
A Buttigieg campaign spokesman said that was backed up by projections based on self-reported numbers from more than three-quarters of their precinct captains who found that they were “on our way to winning the SDE [state delegate equivalent] count” in a narrow victory over Sanders.
Sanders’ campaign released its own internal reporting numbers from close to 40% of the state’s precincts, in which they projected they’d won the caucuses, with Buttigieg in second, Warren in third, and Biden in a distant fourth.
Warren’s campaign said the top three candidates were bunched up, and that Biden trailed badly.
“It’s a mess. But we feel confident it’s going to be close at the top — Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg. And the vice president is a distant fourth,” Warren campaign manager Roger Lau told reporters.
And Sen. Klobuchar’s campaign manager tweeted that based on their own internal reporting, she was “running even or ahead of” Biden.
Biden’s campaign did what losers often do, and hinted the game might be rigged against them.
Even before they talked to the Iowa Democratic Party, Biden’s lawyers sent a letter to them attacking the “considerable flaws in tonight’s Iowa Caucus reporting system” and demanding “full explanations and relevant information regarding the methods of quality control you are employing, and an opportunity to respond, before any official results are released.”
That smacks of a campaign looking to dismiss negative results.
"It's ironic, because the Sanders campaign isn’t saying anything and the Biden campaign is now saying the system’s rigged,” Jennifer Palmieri, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and President Obama, told VICE News shortly after the Biden campaign released its letter.
It wasn’t like the Iowa Democratic Party was doing much to redeem itself, however. After using an app that failed on caucus night, the party claimed through a spokeswoman that the app wasn’t the problem, even though multiple campaigns reported problems from caucus precinct captains.
When pressed on when the numbers would actually be released, the state party hung up on the campaigns in the first call of the night, and refused to take reporters’ questions in an abbreviated press call shortly after 1 a.m. local time.
“We expect to have numbers to report later today,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said early Tuesday morning as he read a prepared statement before abruptly ending a call that lasted less than two minutes. “The system is taking longer than expected, but it's in place to ensure we are eventually able to report results with full confidence.”
That’s infuriated all the campaigns, which feel that the state party’s failure just undercut a great moment for their candidates.
“We are seeing the erasure of Warren rising and Biden falling with the lack of public Iowa voting results,” Adam Green, the head of the pro-Warren Progressive Campaign Change Committee, said shortly after midnight Tuesday.
Iowa’s FUBAR situation might have temporarily blunted the impact of a terrible Biden performance, giving him more of a chance to get off the mat before New Hampshire’s primary next Tuesday. Still, it sounds like those numbers will be coming soon — and that Biden’s team is dreading the moment they do.
Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a caucus night campaign rally on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)