Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have both declared victory, with each pointing to different data points as proof of their win.
After a week of turmoil, the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) released on Thursday its final batch of results from the caucuses, which show a virtual tie between Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont.
Both candidates have declared victory, with each pointing to different data points as proof of their win.
Buttigieg, who preemptively declared victory on caucus night before any official results were released, ultimately earned 26.2 percent of the available “state delegate equivalents,” or SDEs, for a total of 564 SDEs.
Sanders won 26.1 percent, or 562 SDEs. SDEs are the official metric used to determine the winner, which points to a Buttigieg victory, but Sanders earned 6,000 more raw votes than Buttigieg during the caucuses’ first alignment and 2,600 more votes during the second alignment.
Sanders cited his substantially higher raw vote totals as evidence of his victory. “We won an 8-person election by some 6,000 votes,” he told reporters on Thursday.
This “multiple winners” scenario was one many Democrats feared when the IDP announced it would release all three sets of data for the first time this year. Previously, the party only released the number and percentage of SDEs won by each candidate.
The shift was prompted by complaints from the 2016 Sanders campaign after he narrowly lost that caucus, finishing a close second to Hillary Clinton in SDEs. The Sanders camp complained that the process lacked adequate transparency and raised questions about who won more raw votes, which ultimately led to the IDP’s decision to release both raw vote totals and the number of SDEs won by each candidate in this year’s caucus.
[If you’re confused about how the caucus was supposed to work, check out our explainer from earlier this week.]
The caucus’ emphasis on SDEs over raw votes benefited Buttigieg at Sanders’ expense, but the Democratic Socialist from Vermont wasn’t the only one to suffer from the SDE formula. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) came in third place, winning only 18 percent of the SDEs, despite claiming over 20 percent of the second alignment vote. Former vice president Joe Biden finished fourth, claiming only 13.7 percent of the second and final vote and 15.8 percent of SDEs.
While Biden’s fourth-place finish wasn’t a surprise in and of itself, the magnitude of his low numbers stunned some of his campaign operatives. In interviews with Politico, three separate Biden aides anonymously referred to his performance as a “clusterf**k,” a “s**tshow,” and a “f**king disaster.”
Biden himself called it a “gut punch,” given his campaign’s repeated focus on his electability in a head-to-head matchup with President Donald Trump.
Coming in fifth was Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who received 12.3 percent of the second alignment vote and an equal percent of SDEs.
‘Inaccuracies in the data’
As if having multiple candidates declare themselves as winners wasn’t confusing enough, the caucus’ results were thrown into further turmoil on Thursday when a New York Times analysis found that more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, missing data, or not possible under the arcane rules of the caucuses. CNN and NBC News also found dozens of errors in their own reviews of the results.
“There are definitely some inaccuracies in the data,” said John Lapinski, who led the review as director of the Elections Unit at NBC News.
“When you have a tied result, even the smallest sort of inaccuracy could be consequential,” he told NBC News. “If there was a lot of spread in this race, these errors would be insignificant. But when we are talking about a tied race, everyone wants to know that every number is correct.
“In close races, every number is consequential,” Lapinski added.
The results are so muddled that the Associated Press announced Thursday evening that it was “unable to declare a winner.” NBC News has also said it will not declare a winner.
Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, fanned the flames of chaos further when he called for a recanvass, or review of all caucus worksheets and reporting forms.
“Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass,” Perez wrote on Twitter.
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price responded to Perez with a statement, suggesting that Perez did not have the right to request a recanvass and only one of the presidential candidates could do so.
Campaigns initially had until Friday at noon CT to request a recanvass, but the IDP announced that it was extending the deadline to Monday at the same time, giving campaigns three extra days to decide whether they want to contest the results.
The IDP also acknowledged “some inconsistencies in data,” and said it was providing campaigns the chance to submit “documentary evidence between the data reported and the records of result for correction” by Saturday, Feb. 8 at noon CST .
The IDP has come under intense scrutiny this week for its handling of the caucus. The party commissioned an app to report caucus data, but the app experienced a “coding issue,” which caused delays in the reporting system.
(Editor’s note: The progressive non-profit organization ACRONYM is an investor in Shadow, the company that created the app used in the Iowa Democrati Caucus. ACRONYM is also an investor in Courier Newsroom.)
The party’s back-up reporting system required individual precinct chairs to call into a phone hotline, but many found themselves on hold for hours.
Next stop: New Hampshire
After a chaotic week, the candidates have shifted their focus to New Hampshire. There, seven of them will take the debate stage on Friday night, just days ahead of the state’s Feb. 11 primary.
Despite the scale of the disaster in Iowa, Buttigieg still appears to have gotten a substantial bounce from his preemptive declaration of victory. New polls of New Hampshire voters show him surging in the granite state and putting him within striking distance of Sanders, who still holds the lead.
Given the controversy surrounding the Iowa caucus, New Hampshire could play a more pivotal role than usual this year and help cement either Sanders or Buttigieg as the frontrunner for the party’s nomination. But voters in the state could also opt to throw another wrench into the primary, should they elevate Warren, Biden, or Klobuchar to victory.
After New Hampshire, things will kick into high gear with the Nevada caucus on Feb. 22, South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 29, and 14 states going to the polls on Super Tuesday, March 3.
Presumably, by that point, the IDP will have formally declared a winner in the Iowa Caucus.