Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez demanded a review of the results of the Iowa caucuses on Thursday as the latest results showed Bernie Sanders close to overtaking Pete Buttigieg for the outright lead.
The decision to hold a recount came after the contest was embarrassingly marred by technical problems.
Three days after the caucuses were held in the Midwestern state, the final results are yet to be released and some doubts have been raised about the accuracy of the returns released so far.
“Enough is enough,” Perez said on Twitter. “In order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”
In a subsequent tweet, Perez said a recanvass would involve an examination of the results from each caucus site – rather than a full recount.
The results reported so far show Buttigieg, the moderate former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and leftist Senator Sanders in a dead heat in the first-in-the-nation contest to decide the Democratic nominee to face President Donald Trump in November.
Sanders, Buttigieg Both Claim Victory
With returns in from 97 percent of the 1,765 precincts in Iowa, Buttigieg was leading by a razor-thin 26.2 percent to 26.1 percent in “state delegate equivalents (SDEs),” the metric the Associated Press will use to call the race.
Sanders, however, enjoys a comfortable lead in the popular vote and is rapidly closing in on Buttigieig’s SDE lead.
On Wednesday evening, the New York Times’ election predicting “needle” showed Buttigieg all but certain to win the final SDE count, reporting a Sanders’ win as “barely possible.”
But by Thursday morning, the needle had dramatically flipped in Sanders’ direction and the Times is now predicting a narrow victory for the Senator.
Nate Cohn, a reporter for the Times who manages the needle, issued an apology on Twitter Thursday, citing an error in not factoring in “satellite caucuses,” where Sanders was dominant.
While Buttigieg has been claiming victory since the night of the election, Sanders took to a New Hampshire podium on Thursday to stake his own victory claim.
“I want to thank the people of Iowa for the very strong victory they gave us at the Iowa caucuses on Monday night,” he said on Twitter, adding that “we won in Iowa because of the unprecedented grassroots effort of our campaign.”
Reporter: "Why should people believe your victory speech over his?"
Bernie: "Because I got 6,000 more votes. And from where I come, when you get 6,000 more votes that’s generally regarded to be the winner.”
End of story. pic.twitter.com/JL7aKNBgya
— Eric Blanc (@_ericblanc) February 6, 2020
When asked Thursday why he should be considered the winner over Buttigieg, Sanders’ cited his decisive lead in the popular vote.
“Because I got 6,000 more votes. And from where I come when you get 6,000 more votes, that’s generally regarded to be the winner,” he said.
According to the latest results, Sanders’ won 5,954 more votes than Buttigieg in the first round and 2,518 more votes after the “realignment” process, a feature unique to caucuses that allows supporters of candidates who receive less than 15 percent support to have their vote count toward their second choice.
Regardless of who ultimately wins the final SDE count, Sanders and Buttigieg are likely to wind up with roughly equal numbers of “pledged delegates” who will be sent to the party’s national convention, where the winner of the primary race will ultimately be determined.
Tensions in the Party
Following Perez’s announcement Thursday, some Sanders’ supporters reacted with suspicion, expressing concerns that the chairman sought to stop the final results from being released just as the Senator appeared likely to overtake Buttigieg.
Among the party’s left-wing, there is a widespread perception that the party establishment is out to undermine Sanders, particularly after emails leaked by Wikileaks showed heavy favoritism to then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary race.
While Perez said that the Iowa Democratic Party “will continue to report results,” CNN reported that the chairman “took the step of calling for a recanvass specifically because of issues around how the Iowa Dem Party was allocating state delegate equivalents from satellite caucus sites.”
Bloomberg News reported that Buttigieg’s campaign had expressed concerns to the party about the way delegates were being rewarded at satellite locations shortly before Perez made the decision to call for a recount.
The Democratic Party set up satellite caucuses for Iowans living outside of the state or for those who were not able to attend the regularly scheduled meeting in their precinct.
The Sanders’ campaign made a strategic choice to try to turn out voters at those locations – a decision that may well prove decisive for him.
— The Intercept (@theintercept) February 6, 2020
“Of course it was the satellite caucuses where Sanders was dominant that were of the utmost concern. Until then everything was going perfectly!” Krystal Ball, a progressive commentator who co-hosts a show on the Hill TV, wrote on Twitter.
Some of the satellite caucuses where Sanders was most dominant were bilingual and were set up to allow Spanish-speaking, Latino Iowans to participate.
“If the Iowa Democratic Party accedes to Buttigieg’s demand to further marginalize the weight given to the communities who turned out at satellite caucuses, what does that say about the party?” Intercept reporter Ryan Grim wrote on Twitter.
“Other campaigns could have organized those communities and negated the advantage.”
Some Sanders supporters and left-wing commentators called on Perez to resign over the party’s handling of the caucus.
Sanders Takes Front Runner Status
Trump, during remarks at the White House on Thursday celebrating his acquittal at his Senate impeachment trial, mocked the Democrats over the Iowa fiasco.
“The Democrats, they can’t count some simple votes, and yet they want to take over your health care system,” he said. “Think of that.”
While the confusion and controversy over the caucus results were an embarrassment for the party as a whole, the results were also major set back for former Vice President Joe Biden, who until Monday was widely considered the national frontrunner for the nomination.
The available results show progressive Elizabeth Warren in third with 18.2 percent of SDEs and Biden in a disappointing fourth with 15.8 percent.
Biden, who described his likely fourth-place finish in Iowa as a “gut punch,” was meeting with his advisors on Thursday to map out a strategy moving forward.
— Laura Bronner (@laurabronner) February 5, 2020
While Buttigieg appeared to be getting a bounce from his strong performance in Iowa, Sanders has emerged as the odds on favorite to win the nomination.
The polling and data analysis organization FiveThirtyEight now estimates Sanders has a 49 percent chance to win the nomination outright, while Biden’s chances have plummeted to just 18 percent.
And while Buttigieg’s poll numbers have jumped up in New Hampshire – the second-in-the-nation contest that will be held on Tuesday – Sanders’ continues to hold a sizeable eight-point lead in the Real Clear Politics polling aggregate.
In the wake of Iowa, FiveThirtyEight also projects Sanders’ to win 15 of the next 17 contests.
The Sanders campaign announced that it had raised a whopping $25 million in donations in January, its largest fund-raising month to date.
“Working class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement.
After the New Hampshire vote, the candidates will turn their sights on the Nevada caucuses on February 22 and then “Super Tuesday,” when 14 states hold primaries.
Another Democratic hopeful, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, chose to ignore the early nominating contests and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television and internet ads hoping to make a splash on Super Tuesday.
This article contains reporting and writing from AFP.