With 100% of caucus results in, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are in a near tie in state delegates

Barbara Rodriguez
Des Moines Register
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With 100% of precincts reported, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are in a near tie in state delegates in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

The complete results, which were long delayed after Monday's caucuses, show Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with 26.2% of delegate equivalents and Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, with 26.13%, late Thursday evening.

The head of the national Democratic Party has already demanded the results be recanvassed. That demand, plus potential errors in the count, mean that the results may not be final and will likely be disputed.

"Concerned about irregularities, @AP remains unable to declare a winner of Iowa's Democratic caucuses. New results late Thursday put Pete Buttigieg ahead of Bernie Sanders by two state delegate equivalents out of 2,152 counted — a 0.09 percentage-point gap," the Associated Press said in a tweet after the results hit the 100% mark.

Iowa Caucus results: ​​​County-by-county breakdown

Iowa Caucus results: ​Democratic results and alignment tallies

In delegate strength, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was third with 18%, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden (16%) and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (12%). Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur, was the only other candidate to earn at least 1% of the state delegate equivalents.

Sanders, however, declared victory earlier Thursday when 97% of the vote was tallied because he held a lead in the final alignment, which equates to a popular vote. 

Sanders earned final support from nearly 2,000 more caucusgoers than Buttigieg — giving him 26.6% of support in that tally to Buttigieg's 25%.

In most caucus years, the delegate strength, which equates to the Electoral College, is the only information the Iowa Democratic Party releases. This year, it released more data about the caucus results, including how many people supported each candidate when the caucuses started and how many supported each at the conclusion of the presidential preference picking.

Buttigieg is the first openly gay candidate in American history to earn presidential primary delegates in a major party's nomination process. If he goes on to win the nomination and general election, he would be the nation's youngest president. 

He tweeted late Thursday that he was about to take the stage at a CNN town hall. 

"The first time I was here, few people knew me or how to pronounce my name. Now we've won the Iowa Caucuses and we’re just 5 days away from the New Hampshire Primary," he said in the tweet.

The results are also a vindication for Sanders, whose campaign insisted in the days after the party's precinct caucuses ended Monday night that it had internal data showing he would ultimately prevail. Despite polls in the state showing a surge for Sanders in the final weeks before the caucuses, the senator had to fight perceptions about his electability.

The self-described democratic socialist for months had argued that his campaign was built on grassroots support that was stronger than the support of others in the crowded field. If Sanders goes on to win the nomination and general election, the 78-year-old would be the nation's oldest president.

“Tonight's release of data by the Iowa Democratic Party confirms Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Iowa caucus,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ senior adviser, said in a statement late Thursday. But, he added, that "discrepancies" in the tally mean the true delegate count may "never be known with any kind of certainty."

Weaver's statement went on to say that using state delegate equivalents to determine Iowa caucus winners is "an antiquated and meaningless metric."

The release of complete results has been a drawn-out, unprecedented debacle for Iowa Democrats, triggering withering criticism from TV commentators and some national party leaders and thrusting the future of the Iowa caucuses in doubt.

The party first released a batch of results Tuesday afternoon that showed Buttigieg with a slight lead over Sanders in state delegate equivalents. The party released additional information days after Iowans across the state and world met to pick presidential preferences. 

Troy Price, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, blamed the delay on a coding error in an app that the party was using to report results. Price told reporters in a news conference Tuesday that precinct chairs around the state reported data accurately on caucus night, but it would take time to hand count and finalize the results.

Barbara Rodriguez covers health care and politics for the Register. She can be reached by email at or by phone at 515-284-8011. Follow her on Twitter @bcrodriguez.

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