Iowa Democratic Caucus: 'Virtual Tie'
UPDATE: The Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Iowa Caucus by the slimmest of margins. Read more here.
With a "sigh of relief," Hillary Clinton appeared to claim victory in Iowa, even as all major news networks were still calling the race between the former secretary of State and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders "too close to call."
"Thank you, Iowa," Clinton shouted from the stage as she addressed her supporters in Iowa after a night of caucusing that had her and Sanders in a "statistical dead heat," according to MSNBC.
The Democratic front-runner sounded excited as she painted herself as a progressive ready to defend the middle class and fight for the rights of disenfranchised groups.
“I know we can protect our rights: women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrants' rights, workers' rights.” —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 2, 2016
Clinton's campaign had declared victory by 9:30 p.m. local time, though each major network was still reporting the race between Clinton and Sanders as too close to call. MSNBC reports that a concrete count of Iowa's Democratic caucus may not be be available until Tuesday morning.
Taking the stage roughly a half hour after Clinton, Sanders gave what out MSNBC Rachel Maddow called the "fourth victory speech of the night," referencing Clinton's speech, as well as Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio's optimistic speeches to supporters.
In his speech, Sanders channeled the populist message that has carried his campaign, noting that nine months ago, staffers and volunteers came to Iowa with a mission to taking on "the most powerful political organization in the country."
"And while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie," Sanders said, grinning. "While the results are still not complete, it looks like we will have about half the Iowa delegates."
Tonight's caucus determines the distribution of Iowa's 44 Democratic delegates to the Democratic National Convention, where the party's official nominee will be named. ABC News notes that delegates will be awarded proportionately, "based on the statewide vote as well as the vote in the individual congressional districts." That means that Sanders and Clinton could emerge from tonight's contest with similar delegate support heading into the next primary, which takes place in New Hampshire February 9. At press time, the Associated Press reports that both Clinton won 22 delegates from Iowa in tonight's caucus, while Sanders won 21 delegates.
The contest remained close throughout the night, tightening further after Martin O'Malley, the long-shot candidate and former Maryland governor who had been polling in the single digits throughout his candidacy, suspended his campaign by 10 p.m. local time.
With 93 percent of precincts reporting at 10:45 p.m., Clinton was leading Sanders by less than one half a percentage point — with 49.8 percent of caucus participants supporting Clinton, and 49.6 percent supporting Sanders, according to The New York Times.
Tonight's victory for Clinton — provided it lasts through a night of recounts — may ben a particularly sweet one for the former secretary of State, whose 2008 campaign for president was harpooned by an unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa from a then-relatively unknown senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, notes USA Today.