With 62% Of Iowa Precincts Reporting, Buttigieg And Sanders In Tight Race For First

Feb 4, 2020
Originally published on February 4, 2020 8:04 pm
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We finally have results coming in from yesterday's Iowa caucuses. After holding a press conference where the state party chairman apologized for disruptions to the process, Iowa Democrats have released results from nearly two-thirds of precincts in the state. And it's a very close race between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow joins us now with more.

Scott, first, help us understand these results. As we said, it's just two-thirds of the precincts, so what are we looking at?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: It's a close contest between Buttigieg and Sanders and a real gap between the two of them and everybody else in the field. Clearly, they are the co-leaders right now with about 40% remaining to report. It's two drastically different candidates. You have a 78-year-old democratic socialist who's been in Congress for decades, pushing for major changes to the political system - a political revolution, as he puts it - and the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., the first millennial presidential candidate who's run on a platform of moderation and unity.

These are two candidates. Here's what they had in common. They both created organic, sustained enthusiasm - a ton of volunteers, a ton of contributors who gave them the resources to outspend their opponents and really commit a lot of resources to Iowa. And from what we can see so far, Buttigieg is doing really well in rural and suburban areas; Bernie Sanders doing well in urban centers and college towns. Again, we're still waiting on about 40% of that total to come in.

CORNISH: The person trailing is Joe Biden. He's in fourth place. How significant is that?

DETROW: I'd say it's really significant. This is a big blow for Joe Biden. Electability is the be-all, end-all of his pitch. And he is the former vice president of the United States in fourth place and, significantly, really behind the top two candidates. His campaign had tried to downplay this in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses, maybe anticipating this result, saying a low finish wasn't a problem. But here's the thing. He diverted a lot of advertising money to Iowa in the final month, and he had really spent a lot of time there. He was making a full push, and he did that at the expense of campaigning in New Hampshire. And that could set him up for another poor showing next week.

CORNISH: You've been following the Sanders campaign, and there's been a strong feeling that he had lots of energy going into these caucuses. So what does it mean that he's in contention to win at this point?

DETROW: It shows that he has consolidated the progressive wing of the party, and that was a really open question at the beginning of the race. How much of Bernie Sanders' 2016 support would stick with him with Elizabeth Warren and other progressives in the race? And the answer here is maybe enough to win Iowa. His campaign focused on bringing new voters in. He really hit hard on the message of, we need to have record turnout in Iowa in the final weeks of this race. It looks like that record turnout did not materialize. It looks like this is going to be noticeably below that high watermark of 2008. But still, he seemed to have gotten enough voters out to be where he is right now. And that's a validation of the campaign's organization. They had boasted of knocking on 500,000 doors in January alone.

CORNISH: Speaking of boasting, I want to come back to Pete Buttigieg for a minute because last night, when no one knew anything, he was giving something of a victory speech. He spoke just a short time ago there in New Hampshire, where you are. Let's have a listen to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETE BUTTIGIEG: A campaign that some said should have no business even making this attempt has taken its place at the front of this race to replace the current president with a better vision...

(CHEERING)

CORNISH: What's the path ahead?

DETROW: This marks a pretty remarkable rise in a race dominated by candidates on national - on the national scene for decades. Again, here is this 38-year-old former mayor in this position. He was one of the first candidates to create a real viral moment of excitement. Unlike others who did that, he sustained it, created a national campaign out of nowhere. He's in position to do really well in New Hampshire, I think. The question is, what happens next? Can he create this excitement and support in states where he hasn't been campaigning for a year, run a national campaign, support - and appeal to minority voters? - which polls have shown he really has not been able to do so far. But I think he has earned enough from this showing in Iowa to make that competition nationally in March and Super Tuesday and beyond.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Detrow in Manchester, N.H.

Thanks so much.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.